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Encyclopedia of 



and the 

Muslim World 

Editor in Chief 

Richard C. Martin 

Professor of Islamic Studies and History of Religions 
Emory University, Atlanta 

Associate Editors 

Sa'i'd Amir Arjomand 

Professor of Sociology 
State University of New York, Stony Brook 

Marcia Hermansen 
Professor of Theology 
Loyola University, Chicago 

Abdulkader Tayob 
University of Cape Town, South Africa 
International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Netherlands 

Assistant Editor 

Rochelle Davis 
Teaching Fellow, Introduction to the Humanities Program 
Stanford University 

Editorial Consultant 

John O. Voll 

Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding 
Georgetown University 

Encyclopedia of 


and the 

Muslim World 

Editor in Chief 
Richard C. Martin 

Volume 1 






New York • Detroit • San Diego • San Francisco • Cleveland • New Haven, Conn. • Waterville, Maine ■ London • Munich 

Encyclopedia of 


and the 

Muslim World 

Editor in Chief 
Richard C. Martin 

Volume 2 
M-Z, Index 






New York • Detroit • San Diego • San Francisco • Cleveland • New Haven, Conn. • Waterville, Maine ■ London • Munich 




Encyclopedia of Islam 

Richard C. Martin, Editor in Chief 

© 2004 by Macmillan Reference USA. 
Macmillan Reference USA is an imprint of The 
Gale Group, Inc., a division of Thomson 
Learning, Inc. 

Macmillan Reference USA™ and Thomson 
Learning™ are trademarks used herein under 

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the publisher will be corrected in future 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world / edited by Richard C. 

p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-02-865603-2 (set) — ISBN 0-02-865604-0 (v. 1) — ISBN 
0-02-865605-9 (v. 2) 

1. Islam — Encyclopedias. I. Martin, Richard C. 
BP40.E525 2003 
909'.097671— dc21 


This title is also available as an e-book. 
ISBN 0-02-865912-0 
Contact your Gale sales representative for ordering information. 

Printed in the United States of America 


Introduction \ix\ 

List of entries ' xiii ! 

List of contributors xxiii 

Synoptic outline of entries xxxi 

List of maps xxxv 


Glossary '.749; 

Appendix: Genealogies and Timelines 1755; 

Index 785 


Editorial and Production 

Kate Millson and Corrina Moss 
Project Editors 

Joann Cerrito, Melissa Hill, and Mark Mikula 
Editorial Support 

Jonathan Aretakis 
Copy Chief 

Nancy Gratton 
Copy Editor 

Ann McGlothlin Weller 


Barbara Cohen 

Barbara Yarrow 
Manager, Imaging and Multimedia Content 

Dean Dauphinais 
Senior Editor, Imaging and Multimedia Content 

Lezlie Light 

Imaging Coordinator 

Deanna Raso 
Photo Researcher 

Shalice Shah-Caldwell 

Research Associate 

Cynthia Baldwin and Jennifer Wahi 

Art Directors 



Mary Beth Trimper 

Manager, Composition 

Evi Seoud 

Assistant Manager, Composition 

Rhonda Williams 

Print Buyer 


Frank Menchaca 
Vice President 

Helene Potter 

Director, New Product Development 


A growing number of scholars and pundits have declared that the twenty- first century will be the 
era of Islam. Such predictions, whether intended in a positive or negative light, err in failing to 
appreciate the spread and influence of Islam during the past millennium and a half, especially on 
the continents of Asia and Africa. Nonetheless, events during the first decade of the new 
millennium have underscored the importance of knowing about Islamic history and understand- 
ing the great diversity and richness of Muslim social, cultural, and religious practices. Suicide 
bomber attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, 
D.C., on September 11, 2001, killed over three thousand persons. These tragic events and the 
media coverage of the aftermath as well as of the two wars subsequently fought in the Muslim 
countries of Afghanistan and Iraq have dramatically shown how little is known in the West about 
Islam and the Muslim world. Islam is, and has been for nearly fifteen centuries, a global religious 
and political phenomenon. Muslim networks of communication, from the annual pilgrimage to 
Mecca to the vast new power of the World Wide Web, have enabled Muslims to establish 
postmodern identities in a rapidly changing world, while at the same time preserving and 
reinvigorating a variety of time-honored traditions and practices. The Encyclopedia of Islam, and the 
Muslim, World is a sourcebook of information about Islam, its past and present, addressed to 
students and general readers as the twenty-first century begins its first decade. 

The Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim. World presents in two volumes some 504 articles, 
alphabetically arranged, in incremental lengths generally of 200, 500, 1,000, 3,000, and 5,000 
words. The work of some 500 scholars appears in these pages, carefully reviewed and edited in a 
common style for easy access by readers who may presently have limited or no knowledge of 
Islam. It has also been prepared as a teaching and learning resource for teachers and students, 
from the high school grades through university. The alphabetical ordering of articles that follow, 
in the List of Articles, will enable readers to locate topics of interest quickly. A synoptic outline of 
the contents of the Encyclopedia, found within the frontmatter on pages xxxi-xxxiv, provides 
readers with an overview by topic and subtopic of the range and kinds of information presented in 
the main body of the Encyclopedia. Approximately 170 photographs, drawings, maps, and charts 
appear throughout the two volumes. A glossary in the back matter of volume two, which lists 
commonly used Arabic and other Islamic terms, such as shari c a, or "Islamic law," will enable 
general readers to determine quickly the meaning of essential but perhaps less familiar terms in 
Islamic studies. 

The Encyclopedia is truly an international work that reflects the diversity of ideas and practices 
that have characterize the Islamic world throughout its history. This diversity is reflected among 
the editors who organized and compiled this work and the scores of scholars who wrote the 
articles contained in it. The associate editors' national origins are Canada, Iran, and South Africa; 
their religious affiliations or backgrounds include Sunni and Shi'ite Islam; and their scholarly 
training has been in sociology, the history of religions, and Islamic studies. An even greater 



diversity exists among the contributing scholars who live and teach in North America, Europe, 
Africa, and Asia, including the Middle East. They represent the fields of history, philosophy, 
religious studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, and the fine arts, among others. In its 
totality, then, this work represents a broad expanse of scholarly knowledge about Islam, accessible 
in two volumes. 

Islam increasingly is recognized as a vital force in the contemporary world, a source of 
collective social identity, and religious expression for over one billion people around the world, 
who comprise a fifth of the global population. Public interest in learning about Islam is a very 
recent phenomenon, however. Events of the past few decades have generated a demand for 
information about Islam on an unprecedented scale in the history of Islamic studies in the West. 
In negative terms, these events include violence: the colonial and postcolonial encounters 
between Europeans and Muslims in Asia and Africa, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hindu- 
Muslim clashes in South Asia, Serbian ethnic cleansing ofMuslim populations in the Balkans, and 
the heavily televised American-led wars in the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In positive terms, the 
recent years have seen productive Muslim diaspora communities emerge in Europe and the 
Americas, Islamic patterns of democracy and civil society develop in some countries in Africa and 
Asia, and venues of dialogue arise among Muslims, Jews, and Christians about their common 
moral and social concerns as well as their differences. That non-Muslims are learning more about 
Islam and their Muslim neighbors through tools like this encyclopedia must also be counted as a 
positive turn, and a much-needed one. 

Scholars, journalists, and writers of all sorts have responded robustly to this newly recognized 
importance of Islam and the Muslim world, thus creating a wealth of information about Islam 
now available in bookstores, libraries, and newsstands around the world. More significant for 
readers of this work, the Internet hosts an expanding plethora of Web sites on Islamic teachings, 
practices, sectarian groups, and organizations. Many Web sites are sponsored by Muslim 
scholars, organizations, and institutions and provide authentic, and sometimes competing, 
information about Islamic beliefs and practices. Unfortunately, others offer hostile interpreta- 
tions of Islam. The Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World is designed to help students and 
general readers cope with this growing demand and almost overwhelming supply of information. 

The decision to call this work the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World was made after 
considering other, less felicitous alternatives. The editors wanted to produce a work that was 
about Islamic cultures, religion, history, politics, and the like as well as the people who have 
identified with Islam over the past fourteen centuries. For the scope of the social and cultural 
aspects of the subject matter of the Encyclopedia, the editors chose the phrase "Muslim World." 
The label "Muslim World" is not meant to suggest that diversity and variety are lacking in what 
Muslims think, believe, and do as Muslims. Nor is the Muslim World as represented in this work 
to be thought of as separate from the rest of the world. Indeed, it will be clear to readers of articles 
on virtually all topics included below that Islamic history and Muslim people have been deeply 
and richly engaged in and interacting with world history and are perhaps even more so in the 
modern world, as the late Marshall G. S. Hodgson so persuasively argued in his monumental 
three-volume work, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (1974). 

The growing demand for accessible knowledge about Islam in recent decades has produced a 
number of histories, encyclopedias, and dictionaries that serve different purposes. In addition to 
Hodgson's comprehensive historical essay on Islamic civilization, The Cambridge History of Islam 
(1970) brought together substantial treatments of historical periods and geographical regions of 
Islamic societies. Another important and even older work that is widely used by scholars is the 
ongoing project known as the Encyclopaedia of Islam. The first edition was published in four 
volumes in Leiden (1908-1938); the second and much larger edition recently reached its 
completion in twice as many volumes with a significantly expanded list of contributing scholars; 
and the third edition is now being planned. The Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World brings 
to general readers in accessible form the rich tradition of serious scholarship on Islam and Muslim 
peoples found in the Cambridge History and the Encyclopaedia of Islam, and it addresses information 
about Islam in the twenty-first century that is not discussed in the older sources. More recently, 


islam and the Muslim World 


the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (1995) appeared in four volumes. The focus of 
this latter work is, as the title suggests, on Islam in the modern world, generally dated from the 
beginning the eighteenth century through the last decade of the twentieth. The Encyclopedia of 
Islam and the Muslim World by contrast seeks to contextualize contemporary Islam within the 
longer history of Islam, and it includes discussion of significant world events involving the Islamic 
world over the past decade. 

In preparing this new resource on Islam, the editors sought to frame some of the traditional as 
well as the more recent aspects of Islam in newer categories. Thus, for example, readers will find 
articles covering "Material Culture," "Vernacular Islam," "Identity, Muslim," "Secularism," 
"Disputation," and "Expansion of Islam." A major feature of the Encyclopedia is the large number 
of brief biographical sketches (nearly two hundred) of major figures in Islamic history, men and 
women, past and present. The editors also included articles on several important and sometimes 
contested ethical and social issues, including "Ethnicity," "Gender," "Homosexuality," "Human 
Rights," and "Masculinities," along with the more traditional entries on gender (usually 
concentrating on the feminine roles) and marriage. The events of September 11, 2001, occurred 
after the Table of Contents was prepared and authors were commissioned to write the articles. 
Nonetheless, new articles on "Terrorism," "Usama bin Ladin," and "al-Qa'ida," among others, 
were added. 

History, of course, will continue to unfold for humankind worldwide, including Muslims. The 
Encyclopedia includes a number of interpretive articles, such as "Ethics and Social Issues," which 
provide frameworks for understanding ongoing events in Islamic history. 

Editorial style is a matter of great importance in a work such as the Encyclopedia. Readers can 
easily get lost in technical terms and diacritical marks on words borrowed from Arabic and 
Persian. Integrating work from a great number of scholars from around the world, each with 
differing practices in academic expression and in transliterating Islamic languages into Latin 
letters, presented some challenges to the academic editors and the editorial staff at Macmillan. 
To make things easier on readers, especially for those not initiated into the argots of Islamic 
technical terms, the editors decided to minimize the diacritical marks on loanwords from Arabic, 
Persian, Urdu, Turkish, and other Islamic languages. We encouraged authors and copy editors to 
romanize those Islamic terms that have made it into the English language, such as jihad, hajj, and 
Ramadan, as evidenced by their inclusion in modern dictionaries such as Webster's Third New 
International Dictionary. Where it seemed helpful, editors supplied brief parenthetical definitions 
and identifications, both in the text and in the Glossary. 

The people who made this project possible brought great ideas to it, are extremely talented 
and competent, and were wonderful to work with. Helene Potter, Macmillan's Director of New 
Product Development, designed the project and brought to it a considerable knowledge about 
Islam. More than an industry leader, Helene became first and foremost a friend and colleague. 
She is an accomplished professional with an uncanny understanding of the knowledge industry 
she serves. Corrina Moss, an Assistant Editor with Macmillan, worked on the project throughout 
and kept in touch daily on editorial matters large and small. To Corrina went the unpleasant task, 
pleasantly administered, of keeping the associate editors and especially me on task. Elly 
Dickason, who was the publisher in 2 000 when this project was approved, and Jonathan Aretakis, 
chief copy editor, also deserve expressions of praise and gratitude — Elly for supporting the 
project from the moment she reviewed it, and Jonathan for making sure the articles are factually 
and stylistically appropriate. 

My colleagues Said Arjomand, Marcia Hermansen, and Abdulkader Tayob served as Associ- 
ate Editors. The associate editors brought broad vision and detailed knowledge to their tasks of 
helping to organize the contents of the Encyclopedia, and I am indebted to them for making my 
own knowledge limitations less problematic in producing it. Rochelle Davis, a specialist in Arabic 
and Islamic studies, served as Assistant Editor, responsible for reading page proofs and preparing 
the Glossary. However, she contributed much more to the Encyclopedia, with an eye for 
grammatical and content errors that greatly improved the penultimate draft. My friend and 

islam and the Muslim World 



colleague of many years, John Voll, Editorial Consultant, kindly advised Helene Potter and me of 
matters we should consider in the formative stages of planning the Encyclopedia, and he 
contributed several important articles to it. 

On behalf of Said, Marcia, Abdulkader, Rochelle, and John, I would like to dedicate this 
project to our many Muslim and non-Muslim colleagues around the world, with whom we share 
the task of teaching and writing about Islam in a high-tech, troubled world that needs to know 
more about itself. To that end we hope this work will help disseminate useful knowledge about 
one of the world's great civilizations to those who have a desire and need to know. 

Richard C. Martin 
Creston, North Carolina 
August 15, 2003 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Entries 

ADDdS \, onan 

Abu 1-Hasan Bani-Sadr 

Ahmad Ibn Idris 

Rudi Matthee 

Mazyar Lotfalian 

Knut S. Vikar 

ado ai-Ddna 

adu 1-nuOnayi ai- Aiiat 


William McCants 

M. Sait Ozervarli 

Avril A. Powell 


Abu 'l-Qasem Kashani 

Ahmad Khan, (Sir) Sayyid 

Claudia Gazzini 

Mohammad H. Faghfoory 

David Lelyveld 

ado di-riamid KisnK (onaykrij 


Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam 

Joel Gordon 

Tahir Fuzile Sitoto 

Avril A. Powell 

ado ai-jaooar 


a isna 

M. Sait Ozervarli 

Barbara D. Metcalf 

Sa'diyya Shaikh 

c Abd al-Karim Sorush 



Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 

Muneer Goolam Fareed 

Gregory C. Kozlowski 

c Abd al-Nasser, Jamal 

Afghani, Jamal al-Din 


T 1 f ' J 

Joel Gordon 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Robert Gleave 

'Abd al-Qadir, Amir 

Africa, Islam in 


Peter von Sivers 

David Robinson 

Azim Nanji 

'Abd al-Rahman Kawakibi 

African Culture and Islam 


Sohail H. Hashmi 

Abdin Chande 

Diana Steigerwald 

'Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri 

Aga Khan 


Khaled Abou El-Fadl 

Azim Nanji 

David Lelyveld 

'Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad Ibn 

Ahl al-Bayt 


Sohail H. Hashmi 

Juan Eduardo Campo 

Daniel C. Peterson 

'Abduh, Muhammad 

Ahl-e Hadis / Ahl al-Hadith 

American Culture and Islam 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Barbara D. Metcalf 

Ihsan Bagby 

Abu Bakr 

Ahl al-Hadith 

Americas, Islam in the 

Rizwi Faizer 

R. Kevin Jaques 

Sylviane Anna Diouf 

Abu Bakr Gumi 

Ahl al-Kitab 

Andalus, al- 

Roman Loimeier 

Stephen Cory 

Aaron Hughes 

Abu Hanifa 

Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi 


Brannon M. Wheeler 

Roman Loimeier 

Peter Lamborn Wilson 


List of Entries 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 
Gordon D. Newby 

Arabic Language 
Kees Versteegh 

Arabic Literature 
Gert Borg 

Arab League 
Juan Eduardo Campo 

Santhi Kavuri-Bauer 


Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 

Aaron Hughes 

Ash'arites, Ash'aira 
M. Sait Ozervarli 

Askiya Muhammad 
Ousmane Kane 

Uri Rubin 

Farhad Daftary 

Ahmad S. Dallal 

Ahmad S. Dallal 

Neguin Yavari 

Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal 
A. Uner Turgay 

Awami League 
Sufia Uddin 

Ayatollah (Ar. Ayatullah) 
Robert Gleave 

Azhar, al- 
Diana Steigerwald 


William McCants 

Bab, Sayyed c Ali Muhammad 
William McCants 

Mona Hassan 

John Walbridge 

Baha'i Faith 
John Walbridge 

Balkans, Islam in the 
Frances Trix 

Bamba, Ahmad 
Lucy Creevey 

Banna, Hasan al- 
Sohail H. Hashmi 

Baqillani, al- 
M. Sait Ozervarli 

Basri, Hasan al- 
Rkia E. Cornell 

Ba c th Party 
F. Gregory Gause III 

Bazargan, Mehdi 
Mazyar Lotfalian 

Rochelle Davis 

Bid [ a 
NicoJ. G. Kaptein 

Bin Ladin, Usama 
Richard C. Martin 

Biography and Hagiography 
Marcia Hermansen 

Biruni, al- 

Marcia Hermansen 

Body, Significance of 
Brannon M. Wheeler 

Bourghiba, Habib 
John Ruedy 

Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 
Florian Schwarz 

Bukhari, al- 
Asma Afsaruddin 

Carel Bertram 

Aslam Farouk-Alli 

Muhammad Qasim Zaman 

Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 

Timur Kuran 

Cartography and Geography 
Karen C. Pinto 

Central Asia, Islam in 
Devin DeWeese 

Central Asian Culture and Islam 
Devin DeWeese 

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea 

Christianity and Islam 
Patrice C. Brodeur 

Kathryn Kueny 

Charlotte Jirousek 

Abdullah Saeed 

Jamal Malik 

Richard C. Campany, Jr. 

Conflict and Violence 
A. Rashied Omar 

Peter B. Clarke 

Warren C. Schultz 

Dar al-Harb 
John Kelsay 

Dar al-lslam 
John Kelsay 

Da c wa 
David Westerlund 
Christer Hedin 
Torsten Janson 

Sohail H. Hashmi 


Juan Eduardo Campo 

Barbara D. Metcalf 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Entries 

Devotional Life 
Gerard Wiegers 

Earle Waugh 

Dietary Laws 
Muneer Goolam Fareed 

Richard C. Martin 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 

Dome of the Rock 
Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 


John C. Lamoreaux 

Muneer Goolam Fareed 

East Asia, Islam in 
Jacqueline M. Armijo 

East Asian Culture and Islam 
Jacqueline M. Armijo 

Economy and Economic Institutions 
Nora Ann Colton 

Jonathan Berkey 

Empires: Abbasid 
Matthew Gordon 

Empires: Byzantine 
Nadia Maria El Cheikh 

Empires: Mogul 
Iqtidar Alam Khan 

Empires: Mongol and ll-Khanid 
Charles Melville 

Empires: Ottoman 
Donald Quataert 

Empires: Safavid and Qajar 
Rudi Matthee 

Empires: Sassanian 
Henning L. Bauer 

Empires: Timurid 
Paul D. Buell 

Empires: Umayyad 
Alfons H. Teipen 

Erbakan, Necmeddin 


A^Iarcia Flermansen 

Ethics and Social Issues 

Ghannoushi, Rashid al- 

iLuranini ivioosa 

v j lien in 1 jvrainer 



Haggai Erlich 

Robert Gleave 


Ghazali, al- 

Amal Rassam 

xLuranim ivioosa 


Ghazali, Muhammad al- 

Jane Hathaway 

Qamar-ul Huda 

European Culture and Islam 

Ghazali, Zaynab al- 

jorgen o. iMieisen 

Ursula Giinther 

Europe, Islam in 


Jorgen S. Nielsen 

Said Amir Arjomand 


Grammar and Lexicography 

Fred M. Donner 

Kees Versteegh 

Fadlallah, Muhammad Husayn 

Greek Civilization 

Mazyar Lotfalian 

Oliver Leaman 



Parviz Morewedge 

riaraiu iviotzKi 

Farrakhan, Louis 

Hajj Salim Suwari, al- 

Ajninan jjeveny ivicv>iouu 

Abdulkader Tayob 

Fasi, Muhammad c Allal al- 

Haj c Umar al-Tal, al- 

David L.Johnston 

Abdin Chande 


Hallaj, al- 

Ursula Giinther 

Herbert W. Mason 



Daniel C. Peterson 

Tamara Sonn 

Feda 5 iyan-e Islam 


Fakhreddin Azimi 

Etin Anwar 


Haron, Abdullah 

Ghazala Anwar 

Shamil Jeppie 



Claudia Gazzini 

Michael M. J. Fischer 


Hashemi-Rafsanjani, 'Ali-Akbar 

Sandra S. Campbell 

Majid Mohammadi 



\Ann 1 — 1 1 — lichtni 

-TVLJULllldlll ^Joilldll IL1 - _L (Jill 



Reeva Spector Simon 

Aaron Hughes 

Casprinskii, Isma'il Bay 


A. Uner Turgay 

Rizwi Faizer 


Hijri Calendar 

Zayn R. Kassam 

Ahmad S. Dallal 

islam and the Muslim World 


List of Entries 

Hilli, 'Allama al- 
Robert Gleave 

Hilli, Muhaqqiq al- 
Robert Gleave 

Hinduism and Islam 
Juan Eduardo Campo 
Anna Bigelow 

Robert Gleave 

Historical Writing 
Konrad Hirschler 

Hizb Allah 
Tamara Sonn 

Hojjat al-lslam 
Robert Gleave 

Hojjatiyya Society 
Majid Mohammadi 

Holy Cities 
Aslam Farouk-Alli 

Everett K. Rowson 

Rasool Ja'fariyan 

Hospitality and Islam 
Khalid Yahya Blankinship 

Hukuma al-lslamiyya, al- (Islamic 
Gudrun Kramer 

Human Rights 
Ursula Giinther 

Irfan A. Omar 


Michael M. J. Fischer 

Husayni, Hajj Amin al- 
Philip Mattar 

Husayn, Taha 
Sohail H. Hashmi 

Gerard Wiegers 

Ibn 'Arabi 

William C. Chittick 

Ibn Battuta 
Thyge C. Bro 

Ibn Hanbal 
Susan A. Spectorsky 

Ibn Khaldun 
R. Kevin Jaques 

Ibn Maja 
Asma Afsaruddin 

Ibn Rushd 
Oliver Leaman 

Ibn Sina 
Shams C. Inati 

Ibn Taymiyya 
James Pavlin 

Identity, Muslim 
Daniel C. Peterson 


Muneer Goolam Fareed 

Ikhwan al-Muslimin 
David L. Johnston 

Ikhwan al-Safa 
Azim Nanji 


Muhammad Qasim Zaman 

Robert Gleave 

Anne H. Betteridge 

Bruce B. Lawrence 
Miriam Cooke 

Philip Mattar 

Iqbal, Muhammad 
David Lelyveld 

Iran, Islamic Republic of 
Nancy L. Stockdale 

Ishraqi School 
Seyyed Hossein Nasr 

Islam and Islamic 
John O. Voll 

Islam and Other Religions 
Patrice C. Brodeur 

Islamicate Society 
R. Kevin Jaques 

Islamic Jihad 
Najib Ghadbian 

Islamic Salvation Front 
David L. Johnston 

Islamic Society of North America 
R. Kevin Jaques 

Isma'il I, Shah 
Sholeh A. Quinn 

Ja'far al-Sadiq 
Liyakatali Takim 


Juan Eduardo Campo 

Rizwi Faizer 

Jama c at-e Islami 
Jamal Malik 


Muneer Goolam Fareed 

Jamil al-Amin, Imam 
Edward E. Curtis TV 

Jam c iyat-e 'Ulama-e Hind 
Jamal Malik 

Jam'iyat-e 'Ulama-e Islam 
Jamal Malik 

Jam'iyat-e 'Ulama-e Pakistan 
Jamal Malik 


Juan Eduardo Campo 

Jevdet Pasha 
Linda T. Darling 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Jinnah, Muhammad c Ali 
Rasul Bakhsh Rais 

Judaism and Islam 
Gordon D. Newby 

Parviz Morewedge 

Thyge C. Bro 

Karaki, Shaykh c Ali 
Rula Jurdi Abisaab 

Diana Steigerwald 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Entries 

Kemal, Namek 
Linda T. Darling 

Khalid, Khalid Muhammad 
William Shepard 

Khamane'i, Sayyed c Ali 
Majid Mohammadi 

Gene Garthwaite 

Khanqa (Khanaqa, Khanga) 
Leonor Fernandes 

Khan, Reza of Bareilly 
Barbara D. Metcalf 

Kharijites, Khawarij 
Annie C. Higgins 

Khidr, al- 
Hugh Talat Halman 

Khilafat Movement 
Gail Minault 


Margaret Malamud 

Khiva, Khanate of 
Touraj Atabaki 

Kho'i, Abo 3 I Qasem 
Majid Mohammadi 

Azim Nanji 

Khomeini, Ruhollah 
Nancy L. Stockdale 

Patrick D. Gaffhey 

Kindi, al- 
Jon McGinnis 

Parviz Morewedge 


Majid Mohammadi 

Kunti, Mukhtar al- 
Khalil Athamina 

Osman Tastan 

Farid el Khazen 

Charles Kurzman 

Liberation Movement of Iran 
Claudia Stodte 

John Walbridge 

Madani, 'Abbasi 
Claudia Gazzini 

Brannon M. Wheeler 

John Walbridge 

Marcia Hermansen 

Mahdi, Sadiq al- 
John O. Voll 

Mahdist State, Mahdiyya 
Shamil Jeppie 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 

Said Amir Arjomand 

Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir 
Rula Jurdi Abisaab 

Makassar, Shaykh Yusuf 
R. Michael Feener 

Malcolm X 
Edward E. Curtis PV 

Malik, Ibn Anas 
Jonathan E. Brockopp 

Ma'mun, al- 
Muhammad Qasim Zaman 

Manar, Manara 
Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 

Elton L. Daniel 

Mansa Musa 
Ousmane Kane 

Marja 1 al-Taqlid 
Robert Gleave 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 

Daniel W. Brown 

Marwa, Muhammad 
Paula Stiles 

Rizwi Faizer 

Marcia Hermansen 

Rasool Ja'fariyan 

Patrick D. Gaffhey 

Richard C. Martin 

Material Culture 
Hassan Mwakimako 

Maturidi, al- 
M. Sait Ozervarli 

Maududi, Abu l-A'la' 
Jamal Malik 

Osman Tastan 

Randall L. Pouwels 

Gail G. Harrison 
Osman M. Galal 


Muhammad Qasim Zaman 

Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 

Military Raid 
Rizwi Faizer 

Minbar (Mimbar) 
Richard T. Antoun 

Minorities: Dhimmis 
Patrick Franke 

Minorities: Offshoots of Islam 
Robert Gleave 


Marcia Hermansen 

Frederick Colby 
Michael Sells 

Charles Kurzman 

islam and the Muslim World 

xvi i 

List of Entries 

Javed Majeed 

Modernization, Political: Administra- 
tive, Military, and Judicial Reform 
Aslam Farouk-Alli 

Modernization, Political: Authoritari- 
anism and Democratization 

Claudia Stodte 

Anne-Sophie Froehlich 

Modernization, Political: 
Sohail H. Hashmi 

Modernization, Political: 
Participation, Political Movements, 
and Parties 
Quintan Wiktorowicz 

Modern Thought 
Charles Kurzman 

Mojahedin-e Khalq 
Juan Eduardo Campo 

Mojtahed-Shabestari, Mohammad 
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 

Kamran Aghaie 

Mansur Sefatgol 

Said Amir Arjomand 

Peter B. Clarke 

Mosaddeq, Mohammad 
Fakhreddin Azimi 

Motahhari, Mortaza 
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 

Suleman Dangor 


Muneer Goolam Fareed 

Rizwi Faizer 

Muhammad Ahmad Ibn 'Abdullah 
Mohamed Mahmoud 

Muhammad 'Ali, Dynasty of 
Joel Gordon 

Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya 
Liyakatali Takim 

Muhammad, Elijah 
Edward E. Curtis TV 

Muhammadiyya (Muhammadiyah) 
Robert W. Hefner 

Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi 
Stephanie Cronin 

Muhammad, Warith Deen 
Edward E. Curtis TV 

David Pinault 

Muhasibi, al- 
Rkia E. Cornell 

Robert Gleave 

Amin Tarzi 

Mulla Sadra 
Seyyed Hossein Nasr 

Murji'ites, Murji'a 
Shalahudin Kafrawi 

Munir Beken 

Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj 
Asma Afsaruddin 

Muslim Student Association of 
North America 
Aminah Beverly McCloud 

Mu'tazilites, Mu c tazila 
Shalahudin Kafrawi 

Nader Shah Afshar 
John R. Perry 

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) 
Nelly van Doorn-Harder 

Na 3 ini, Mohammad Hosayn 
Mohammad H. Faghfoory 

Mazyar Lotfalian 


Juan Eduardo Campo 

Nasa'i, al- 
Asma Afsaruddin 

Nationalism: Arab 
Nancy L. Stockdale 

Nationalism: Iranian 
Fakhreddin Azimi 

Nationalism: Turkish 
A. Uner Turgay 

Nation of Islam 
Aminah Beverly McCloud 


Anne H. Betteridge 

Nazzam, al- 
M. Sait Ozervarli 

Networks, Muslim 
Bruce B. Lawrence 
Miriam Cooke 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 

Niyabat-e 'amma 
Robert Gleave 

Nizam al-Mulk 
Warren C. Schultz 

Azim Nanji 

Nur Movement 
Berna Turam 

Nuri, Fazlallah 
Mohammad H. Faghfoory 

Nursi, Said 
A. Uner Turgay 

Organization of the Islamic 
Qamar-ul Huda 

Qamar-ul Huda 

Pakistan, Islamic Republic of 
Rasul Bakhsh Rais 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Touraj Atabaki 


Majid Mohammadi 

Persian Language and Literature 
Franklin D. Lewis 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Entries 

Pilgrimage: Hajj 
Kathryn Kueny 

Pilgrimage: Ziyara 
Richard C. Martin 

Pluralism: Legal and Ethno-Religious 
Irene Schneider 

Pluralism: Political 
Gudrun Kramer 

Political Islam 
Gudrun Kramer 

Political Organization 
Linda T. Darling 

Political Thought 
Louise Marlow 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 

Timur Kuran 

Brannon M. Wheeler 

Gail Minault 

Qadhdhafi, Mu'ammar al- 
Ali Abdullatif Ahmida 

Qadi (Kadi, Kazi) 
Ebrahim Moosa 

Qa'ida, al- 
Richard C. Martin 

Khaled Abou El-Fadl 


Gerard Wiegers 

Rasool Ja'fariyan 

Farid Esack 

Qutb, Sayyid 
Sohail H. Hashmi 

Rabi'a of Basra 
Rkia E. Cornell 

Rahman, Fazlur 
Marcia Hermansen 

Rashid, Harun al- 
Sebastian Gunther 



Muhammad Qasim Zaman 

Andrew J. Newman 


Sadr, Muhammad Baqir al- 

Kamran Aghaie 

If "J If 1 J ' 

Majid Mohammadi 

Refah Partisi 

Sadr Musa al- 

Linda T. Darling 

Majid Mohammadi 

Reform: Arab Middle East and 


iNUIlrl AlllCd 

t . Cjhislaine Lydon 

Sohail H. Hashmi 


Reform: Iran 

Artnur T< Rupnlpr 

ill Lll Lll _I_ . ULltlllCl 

Hosscin Kamaly 

OdldUl 1 1 

Reform: Muslim Communities of the 

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All T T" 1 1 

Alien J. _brank 

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Reform: South Asia 

* 1 A 1 J 

Ahrar Ahmad 

Salph hin Allawi 

/Xr^/HiT^ I h\ o n n p 

Rpfnrm - Sni ithp^'st A^ia 


1 T 1 n T T T 1 1 

Mark R. Woodward 

JdUUI L/ylldbLy 

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Religious Beliefs 

R. Kevin Jaques 


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Rplfoioi is InQtiti itionQ 

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Renuhlican Brothers 

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John O. Voll 

Cnri 1 1 D |"IC m 1 c ! o m 1 (~ 
OeL-Uldllblll, 1 bldl 1 1 IL 

Charles Kurzman 

Revolution: Classical Islam 

Said Amir Arjomand 


Mahmood Monshipouri 

Revolution: Islamic 

Revolution in Iran 

Shafi c i, al- 

Kristian Alexander 

Christopher Melchert 

Revolution: Modern 

Shaltut, Mahmud 

Said Amir Arjomand 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Reza Shah 

Shari c a 

Stephanie Cromn 

Jonathan E. Brockopp 


Shari c ati, 7Mi 

Timur Kuran 

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 

Rida, Rashid 


bonaii ti. rlasnmi 

Robert Gleave 


Shar'it Shangalaji, Reza-Qoli 

Gerard Wiegers 

Paula Stiles 

Rumi, Jalaluddin 

Shaykh al-lslam 

Franklin D. Lewis 

Robert Gleave 

Rushdie, Salman 


Amir Hussain 

Paula Stiles 

Sadat, Anwar al- 

Shi c a: Early 

Joel Gordon 

DevinJ. Stewart 

islam and the Muslim World 


List of Entries 

Shi c a: Imami (Twelver) 

Suyuti, al- 

David Pinault 

r^. ivi. oartain 

Shi'a: Isma'ili 

Tabari, al- 

H-irno/i I liTtonr 
J?d.ilidU J_^d.ildiy 

Christopher Melchert 

Shi c a: Zaydi (Fiver) 

Tablighi Jama'at 

KOnprl" (rlptivp 

Daruara u. ivietcair 



R TCpvin Tiinnps 

Kathryn Kueny 

Siba'i, Mustafa al- 

Tahmasp 1, Shah 

U* n 7 1 a >» l-i 1 c 

r dUld OLilcs 

Sholeh A. ljuinn 



Arthur F. Buehler 

John O. Voll 

Sirhindi, Shaykh Ahmad 


Arthur F. Buehler 

Amin Tarzi 


lximriprli^ \/|p( Irvnrl 

F. Gregory Gause III 


South Asia, Islam in 

J_jlilUd 1 . .L'dlillig 

Scott A. Kugle 


South Asian Culture and Islam 

Robert Gleave 

Perween Hasan 


Southeast Asia, Islam in 


Nelly van Doorn-FIarder 


Southeast Asian Culture and Islam 

Nelly van Doorn-FIarder 



Pari W Frncr 

Mark Wegner 


Suhrawardi, al- 

Kamran Aghaie 

T 1 TIT 11 • J 

John Walbndge 



Juan Eduardo Campo 

Rizwi Faizer 

Caleb Elfenbein 

Sultanates: Ayyubid 

"T~l ji \ i I [ i 

Thaqati, Mukhtar al- 

Carole Hillenbrand 

C^hnstonhpr Mplchprt 

Vjlll lo U11V-1 i. » XV-1\_11V-1 L 

Sultanates: Delhi 


Iqtidar Alam Khan 

Ousmane Kane 

Sultanates: Ghaznavid 


Walicl A. aaien 

j_j u.c y vjI cevey 

Sultanates: Mamluk 


Warren C. Schultz 

JX. _LVCViil J dU LLCs 

Sultanates: Modern 


Hassan Mwakimako 

Sultanates: Seljuk 

Travel and Travelers 

Said Amir Arjomand 

Thyge C. Bro 



Daniel W. Brown 

Amal Rassam 

Turabi, Hasan al- 
John O. Voll 

Tusi, Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan 
(Shaykh al-Ta [ ifa) 
Robert Gleave 

Tusi, Nasir al-Din 
Zayn R. Kassam 

Robert Gleave 


Khalid Yahya Blankinship 

Abdullah Saeed 

Umm Kulthum 
Virginia Danielson 

United States, Islam in the 
Edward E. Curtis IV 

Urdu Language, Literature, 
and Poetry 
Christopher Shackle 


Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi 

'Uthman Dan Fodio 
Roman Loimeier 

'Uthman ibn 'Affan 
Rizwi Faizer 

Ghazala Anwar 
Liz McKay 

Velayat-e Faqih 
Robert Gleave 

Vernacular Islam 
Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger 

Wahdat al-Wujud 
William C. Chittick 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

Wajib al-Wujud 
Shams C. Inati 

Wali Allah, Shah 
Marcia Hermansen 


Gregory C. Kozlowski 

Mansur Sefatgol 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Entries 

Richard C. Martin 

West, Concept of in Islam 
John O. Voll 

Women, Public Roles of 
Etin Anwar 

Yahya bin 'Abdallah Ramiya 
Hassan Mwakimako 

Young Ottomans 
Murat C. Mengiic 

Young Turks 
Murat C. Mengiic 

Youth Movements 
Ali Akbar Mahdi 

Yusuf Ali, 'Abdullah 
Abdulkader Tayob 

Zand, Karim Khan 
John R. Perry 

Zanzibar, Sa'idi Sultanate of 
Abdin Chande 


Adeline Masquelier 

Claudia Gazzini 

isfam and the Muslim World 


List of Contributors 

Rula Jurdi Abisaab 
University at Akron, OH 
Karaki, Shaykh AH 
Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir 

Khaled Abou El-Fadl 
University of California, Los Ange- 
les, Law School 
'Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri 

Asma Afsaruddin 
University of Notre Dame, South 

Bend, IN 
Bukhari, al- 
Ibn Maja 

Muslim, ibn al-Hajjaj 
Nasa'i, al- 

Kamran Aghaie 
University of Texas, Austin 

Ta'ziya (Ta'ziye) 

Ahrar Ahmad 
Black Hills State University, SD 
Reform: South Asia 

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida 
University of New England 

Qadhdhafi, Mu'ammar al- 

Iqtidar Alam Khan 
Aligarh Historians Society, Aligarh 

Empires: Mogul 
Sultanates: Delhi 

Kristian Alexander 
University of Utah 
Revolution: Islamic Revolution in Iran 

Richard T. Antoun 
State University of New York, 

Minbar (Mimbar) 

Ghazala Anwar 
University of Canterbury, New 


Etin Anwar 
Hamilton College, NY 

Women, Public Roles of 

Sai'd Amir Arjomand 
State University of New York, 

Stony Brook 

Revolution: Classical Islam 
Revolution: Modern 
Sultanates: Seljuk 

Jacqueline M. Armijo 
Stanford University 
East Asia, Islam in 
East Asian Culture and Islam, 

Touraj Atabaki 
University of Utrecht, The 

Khiva, Khanate of 

Khalil Athamina 
Birzeit Univeristy, Palestine 
Kunti, Mukhtar al- 

Fakhreddin Azimi 
University of Connecticut 
Feda' iyan-e Islam 
Mosaddeq, Mohammad 
Nationalism: Iranian 

Ihsan Bagby 
University of Kentucky 

American Culture and Islajn 

Henning L Bauer 
University of California, Los Ang 
les, NELC 

Empires: Sassanian 

Munir Beken 
University of Washington 

Jonathan Berkey 
Davidson College 

Carel Bertram 
University of Texas, Austin 

Anne H. Betteridge 
University of Arizona 

Anna Bigelow 
Loyola Marymount University 
Hinduism and Islam 


List of Contributors 

Sheila S. Blair 
Boston College 


Dome of the Rock 
Manar, Manara 

Khalid Yahya Blankinship 
Temple University, PA 
Hospitality and Islam 
c Umar 

Jonathan Bloom 
Boston College 


Dome of the Rock 
Manar, Manara 

Gert Borg 
University of Nijmegen, The 

Arabic Literature 

Thyge C. Bro 

Ibn Battuta 

Travel and Travelers 

Jonathan E. Brockopp 
Bard College, Annandale, NY 

Malik, Ibn Anas 

Patrice C. Brodeur 
Connecticut College 

Christianity and Islam 
Islam and Other Religions 

Daniel W. Brown 
Mount Holyoke College, MA 


Arthur F. Buehler 
Louisiana State Univeristy, Baton 


Sirhindi, Shaykh Ahmad 

Paul D. Buell 
Western Washington University 
Empires: Timurid 

Richard C. Campany, Jr. 
Senior Analyst, Harris Corporation 


Sandra S. Campbell 
Santa Barbara, CA 

Juan Eduardo Campo 
University of California, Santa 

AM al-Bayt 
Arab League 

Hinduism and Islam 



Mojahedin-e Khalq 


Abdin Chande 
Sidwell Friends School, Washing- 
ton, D.C. 

African Culture and Islam 
Haj 'Urnar al-Tal, al- 
Saleh bin Allawi Qamal al Lay!) 
Zanzibar, Sa'idi Sultanate of 

William C. Chittick 
State University of New York, 
Stony Brook 

Ibn c Arabi 
Wahdat al-Wujud 

Peter B. Clarke 
King's College, University of 


Frederick Colby 
Duke University 


Nora Ann Colton 
Drew University 
Economy and Economic Institutions 

Miriam Cooke 
Duke University 

Rkia E. Cornell 
University of Arkansas 
Basri, Hasan al- 
Muhasibi, al- 
Rabi'a of Basra 

Stephen Cory 
University of California, Santa 

AM al-Kitab 

Lucy Creevey 
University of Connecticut, 

Bamba, Ahmad 

Stephanie Cronin 
University College, Northampton, 

Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi 
Reza Shah 

Edward E. Curtis IV 
University of North Carolina, 
Chapel Hill 

Jamil al-Amin, Imam 
Malcolm X 
Muhammad, Elijah 
Muhammad, Warith Deen 
United States, Islam in the 

Farhad Daftary 
Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 

Shi'a: Isma'ili 

Ahmad S. Dallal 
Stanford University 
Hijri Calendar 

Suleman Dangor 
University of Durban, South Africa 


Elton L. Daniel 
University of Hawaii 

Virginia Danielson 
Harvard University 
Umm Kulthum 

Linda T. Darling 
University of Arizona 
Erbakan, Necmeddin 
Jevdet Pasha 
Kemal, Namek 
Political Organization 
Refah Partisi 

xxi v 

islam and the Muslim World 

List of Contributors 

Rochelle Davis 
Stanford University 

Devin DeWeese 
Indiana University 
Central Asia, Islam in 
Central Asian Culture and Islam 

Sylviane Anna Diouf 
New York University 
Americas, Islam in the 

Fred M. Donner 
University of Chicago 


Nadia Maria El Cheikh 
American University of Beirut, 

Empires: Byzantine 

Caleb Elfebein 
University of California, Santa 


Farid el Khazen 
American University of Beirut, 


Abdullahi Osman El-Tom 
National University of Ireland 

Haggai Erlich 
Tel Aviv University, Israel 

Carl W. Ernst 
University of North Carolina, 
Chapel Hill 


Farid Esack 
Union Theological Seminary, NY 


Mohammad H. Faghfoory 
Mary Washington College, 

Fredricksburg, VA 
Abu 'l-Qasem Kashani 
Na'ini, Mohammad Hosayn 
Nuri, Fazlallah 

Rizwi Faizer 
Independent Scholar, Canada 
Abu Bakr 
Military Raid 

Uthman ibn 'Affan 

Muneer Goolam Fareed 
Wayne State University, MI 
Dietary Laws 
Du c a 
Jami c 

Aslam Farouk-Alli 
University of Cape Town, South 


Holy Cities 

Modernization, Political: Administra- 
tive, Military, and Judicial Reform 

R. Michael Feener 
University of California, Riverside 
Makassar, Shaykh Yusuf 

Leonor Fernandes 
American University in Cairo, 

Khanqa (Khanaqa, Khanga) 

Michael M. J. Fischer 
Massachusetts Institute of 


Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger 
Emory University 
Vernacular Islam 

Allen J. Frank 
Independent Scholar 

Reform: Muslim Communities of the 
Russian Empire 

Anne-Sophie Froehlich 
Der Spiegel, Germany 
Modernization, Political: Authoritari- 
anism and Democratization 

Osman M. Galal 
University of California, Los Ange- 
les, School of Public Health 


Patrick Franke 

Minorities: Dhimmis 

Patrick D. Caffney 
University of Notre Dame 

Gene Garthwaite 
Dartmouth College 


F. Gregory Cause III 
University of Vermont, Burlington 
Ba'th Party 
Saudi Dynasty 

Claudia Gazzini 
Princeton University 
'Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis 

Madani, 'Abbasi 

Najib Ghadbian 
University of Arkansas 
Islamic Jihad 

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 
Georgia State University 
c Abd al-Karim Sorush 
Mojtahed-Shabestari, Mohammad 
Motahhari, Mortaza 
Shari'ati, 'Ali 

Robert Cleave 
University of Bristol, England 


Ayatollah (Ar. Ayatullah) 
HUH, 'Allama al- 
Hilli, Muhaqqiq al- 

Hojjat al-lslam 


Marja c al-Taqlid 

Minorities: Offshoots of Islam 


islam and the Muslim World 


List of Contributors 

Niyabat-e l amma 



Shaykh al-lslam 
Shi'a: Zaydi (Fiver) 

Tusi, Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan 

(Shaykh al-Ta c ifa) 

Velayat-e Faqih 

Matthew Cordon 
Miami University, Ohio 
Empires: Abbasid 

Joel Gordon 
University of Arkansas 
c Abd al-Ham,id Kishk (Shaykh) 
c Abd al-Nasser, Jamal 
Muhammad 'Ali, Dynasty of 
Sadat, Anwar al- 

Sebastian Gunther 
University of Toronto, Canada 
Rashid, Harun al- 

Ursula Gunther 
University of Hamburg, Germany 

Ghazali, Zaynab al- 
Human Rights 

Hugh Talat Halman 
University of Arkansas 
Khidr, al- 

Gail G. Harrison 
University of California, Los Ange- 
les, School of Public Health 


Perween Hasan 
Dhaka University, Bangladesh 
South Asian Culture and Islam 

Sohail H. Hashmi 
Mount Holyoke College, MA 
Abd al-Rahman Kawakibi 
Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad Ibn 
Abduh, Muhammad 
Afghani, Jamal al-Din 
Banna, Hasan al- 

Husayn, Taha 

Modernization, Political: 


Reform: Arab Middle Fast and North 

Rida, Rashid 
Shaltut, Mahmud 
Qutb, Sayyid 

Mona Hassan 
Princeton University 

Jane Hathaway 
Ohio State University 

Christer Hedin 
Stockholm University, Sweden 


Robert W. Hefner 
Boston University 
Muhammadiyya (Muhammadiyah) 

Marcia Hermansen 
Loyola University, Chicago 
Biography and Hagiography 
Biruni, al- 
Rahman, Fazlur 
Wali Allah, Shah 

Annie C. Higgins 
University of Chicago 

Kharijites, Khawarij 

Carole Hillenbrand 
University of Edinburgh, Scotland 

Sultanates: Ayyubid 

Konrad Hirschler 
University of London, England 

Historical Writing 

Qamar-ul Huda 
Boston College 

Ghazali, Muhammad al- 
Organization of the Islamic 


Aaron Hughes 
University of Calgary, Canada 
Andalus, al- 
Science, Islam and 

Amir Hussain 
California State University, 

Rushdie, Salman 

Shams C. Inati 
Villanova University, Pennsylvania 
Ibn Sina 
Wajib al-Wujud 

Torsten Janson 
Lund University, Sweden 

Rasool Ja c fariyan 
Independent Scholar 




R. Kevin Jaques 
Indiana University, Bloomington 
Ahl al-Hadith 
Ibn Khaldun 
Islamicate Society 
Islamic Society of North America 
Religious Beliefs 


Shamil Jeppie 
University of Cape Town, South 

Haron, Abdullah 
Mahdist State, Mahdiyya 

Charlotte Jirousek 
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 

David L. Johnston 
Yale University 
Fasi, Muhammad Allal al- 
Ikhwan al-Muslimin 
Islamic Salvation Front 

Shalahudin Kafrawi 
Binghamton University, NY 

Murji'ites, Murji'a 
Mu'tazilites, Mu'tazila 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Contributors 

Hossein Kamaly 
Columbia University 
Reform: Iran 

Ousmane Kane 
Columbia University 

Askiya Muhammad 
Mansa Musa 

Nico J. G. Kaptein 
Leiden University, The 


Zayn R. Kassam 
Pomona College, CA 


Tusi, Nasir al-Din 

Santhi Kavuri-Bauer 
San Francisco State University 


Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi 
International Institute of Islamic 
Thought and Civilization, 

John Kelsay 
Florida State University, 

Dar al-Harb 
Dar al-hlam 

Gregory C. Kozlowski 
DePaul University, Chicago 

Gudrun Kramer 
Free University of Berlin, Germany 
Ghannoushi, Rashid al- 
Hukuma al-Islamiyya, al- (Islamic 

Pluralism: Political 
Political Islam 

Kathryn Kueny 
Lawrence University, KY 


Pilgrimage: Hajj 

Scott A. Kugle 
Swarthmore College, PA 
South Asia, Islam in 

Timur Kuran 
University of Southern California, 

Los Angeles 

Charles Kurzman 
University of North Carolina, 
Chapel Hill 

Modern Thought 
Secularism, Islamic 

John C. Lamoreaux 
Southern Methodist University, 


Bruce B. Lawrence 
Duke University 

Networks, Muslim 

Oliver Leaman 
University of Kentucky 
Greek Civilization 
Ibn Rushd 

David Lelyveld 
William Paterson University, 

Wayne, NJ 
Ahmad Khan, (Sir) Sayyid 

Iqbal, Muhammad 

Franklin D. Lewis 
Emory University 
Persian Language and Literature 
Rumi, Jalaluddin 

Roman Loimeier 
University of Bayreuth, Germany 
Abu Bakr Gumi 
Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi 
'Uthman Dan Fodio 

Mazyar Lotfalian 

Abu l l-Hasan Bani-Sadr 
Bazargan, Mehdi 
Fadlallah, Muhammad Husayn 

F. Ghislaine Lydon 
University of California, Los 


Akbar Mahdi 
Ohio Wesleyan University 
Youth Movements 

Mohamed Mahmoud 
Tufts University, MA 
Muhammad Ahmad Ibn Abdullah 

Javed Majeed 
English Scholar 


Margaret Malamud 
New Mexico State University, Las 


Jamal Malik 
University of Erfurt, Germany 
Jama'at-e Islami 
Jam c iyat-e 'Ulama-e Hind 
Jam c iyat-e "Ulama-e Islam 
Jam c iyat-e 'Ulama-e Pakistan 
Maududi, Abu l-A'la 3 

Louise Marlow 
Wellesley College, MA 
Political Thought 

Richard C. Martin 
Emory University 
bin Ladin, Usama 

Pilgrimage: Ziyara 
Qa'ida, al- 

Herbert W. Mason 
Boston University 
Hallaj, al- 

Adeline Masquelier 
Tulane University, LA 


Philip Mattar 
U.S. Institute of Peace, Washing- 
ton D.C. 

Husayni, Hajj Amin al- 

Rudi Matthee 
University of Delaware 
'Abbas 1, Shah 
Empires: Safavid and Qajar 

islam and the Muslim World 


List of Contributors 

William McCants 
Princeton University 

Bab, Sayyed Ali Muhammad 

Aminah Beverly McCloud 
DePaul University, Chicago 
Farrakhan, Louis 

Muslim Student Association of North 

Nation of blam 

Kimberly McCloud 
Monterey Institute for Interna- 
tional Studies, CA 

Jon McGinnis 
University of Missouri, St. Louis 
Kindi, al- 

Liz McKay 
University of Canterbury, New 


Christopher Melchert 
University of Oxford, England 
Shafi'i, al- 
Tabari, al- 

Thaqafi, Mukhtar al- 

Charles Melville 
Pembroke College, Cambridge 

University, England 
Empires: Mongol and Il-Khanid 

Murat C. Mengiic 
McGill University, Canada 
Young Ottomans 
Young Turks 

Barbara D. Metcalf 
University of California, Davis 

Ahl-e Hadis /AM al-Hadith 

Khan, Reza of Bareilly 
Tablighi Jama' 1 at 

Gail Minault 
University of Texas, Austin 
Khilafat Movement 

Ziba Mir-Hosseini 
School of Oriental and African 
Studies, University of London, 






Majid Mohammadi 
State University of New York, 

Stony Brook 
Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ali-Akbar 
Hojjatiyya Society 
Khamane'i, Sayyed Ali 
Kho'i, Abo H Qasem 

Sadr, Muhammad Baqir al- 
Sadr, Musa al- 

Mahmood Monshipouri 
Quinnipiac University, CN 


Ebrahim Moosa 
Duke University 
Ethics and Social Issues 
Ghazali, al- 
Qadi (Kadi, Kazi) 

Parviz Morewedge 
Rutgers University, New 
Brunswick, NJ 


Harald Motzki 
University of Nijmegen, The 


Hassan Mwakimako 
University of Nairobi, Kenya 
Material Culture 
Sultanates: Modern 
Yahya bin Abdallah Ramiya (Shaykh) 

Azim Nanji 
Institute of Ismaili Studies, Lon- 
don, U.K. 

Aga Khan 

Ikhwan al-Safa 



Seyyed Hossein Nasr 
George Washington University 
Ishraqi School 
Mulla Sadr a 

Gordon D. Newby 
Emory University 
Arabia, Pre-lslam 
Judaism and Islam 

Andrew J. Newman 
University of Edinburgh, Scotland 


Jorgen S. Nielsen 
University of Birmingham, 

Europe, Islam in 

European Culture and Islam 

A. Rashied Omar 
Notre Dame, IN 
Conflict and Violence 

Irfan A. Omar 
Marquette University, 

Milwaukee, WI 

M. Sait Ozervarli 
Center for Islamic Studies, Istan- 
bul, Turkey 
Abd al-Jabbar 
Abu 'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf 
Ash'arites, AsVaira 
Baqillani, al- 
Maturidi, al- 
Nazzam, al- 

James Pavlin 
Rutgers University, New 

Brunswick, NJ 
Ibn Taymiyya 

John R. Perry 
University of Chicago 
Nader Shah Afshar 
Zand, Karim Khan 

Daniel C. Peterson 
Brigham Young University, UT 

Identity, Muslim 

David Pinault 
Santa Clara University, CA 


Shi'a: Imami (Twelver) 

xxvi i i 

islam and the Muslim World 

List of Contributors 

Karen C. Pinto 
University of Alberta, Canada 
Cartography and Geography 

Randall L Pouwels 
University of Arkansas 


Avril A. Powell 
School of Oriental and African 
Studies, University of London, 


Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam 

Donald Quataert 
Binghamton University, NY 
Empires: Ottoman 

Sholeh A. Quinn 
Ohio University 
Isma'ill, Shah 
Tahmasp I, Shah 

Rasul Bakhsh Rais 
Quaid-i Azam University, Pakistan 

Jinnah, Muhammad C AU 
Pakistan, Islamic Republic of 

Amal Rassam 
Queens College, City University of 

New York 

David Robinson 
Michigan State University 
Africa, Islam in 

Everett K. Rowson 
New York University 

Uri Rubin 
Tel Aviv University, Israel 

John Ruedy 
Georgetown University 
Bourghiba, Habib 

Abdullah Saeed 
University of Melbourne, Australia 


Walid A. Saleh 
University of Toronto, Canada 
Sultanates: Ghaznavid 

Lamin Sanneh 
Yale University Divinity School 


E. M. Sartain 
American University in Cairo, 

Suyuti, al- 

Irene Schneider 
University of Halle, Germany 
Pluralism: Legal and Ethno-Religious 

Warren C. Schultz 
DePaul University, Chicago 

Nizam al-Mulk 

Sultanates: Mamluk 

Florian Schwarz 
Ruhr University Bochum, Germany 
Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 

Michael Sells 
Haverford College, PA 


Mansur Sefatgol 
University of Tehran, Iran 


Christopher Shackle 
School of Oriental and African 
Studies, University of London, 

Urdu Language, Literature, and 

Sa'diyya Shaikh 
Temple University, PA 


William Shepard 
University of Canterbury, 

Christchurch, New Zealand 
Khalid, Khalid Muhammad 

Reeva Spector Simon 
Columbia University 


Tahir Fuzile Sitoto 
University of Natal, South Africa 


Tamara Sonn 
The College of William and Mary, 

Williamsburg, VA 
Hizb Allah 

Susan A. Spectorsky 
City University of New York 
Ibn Hanbal 

Diana Steigerwald 
California State University, Long 

c Ali 

Azhar, al- 

Devin J. Stewart 
Emory University 

Shi 1 a: Early 

Paula Stiles 
University of St. Andrews, Scotland 
Marwa, Muhammad 
Shar'it Shangalaji, Reza-Qoli 
Siba'i, Mustafa al- 

Nancy L Stockdale 
University of Central Florida 
Iran, Islamic Republic of 
Khomeini, Ruhollah 
Nationalism: Arab 

Claudia Stodte 
Der Spiegel, Germany 
Liberation Movement of Iran 
Modernization, Political: Authoritari- 
anism and Democratization 

Liyakatali Takim 
Independent Scholar 
Ja'far al-Sadiq 

Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya 

Amin Tarzi 
Monterey Institute of International 

Studies, CA 

Osman Tastan 
Ankara University, Turkey 


islam and the Muslim World 


List of Contributors 

Abdulkader Tayob 
University of Nijmenen, The 

Hajj Salim Suwari, al- 
Religious Institutions 
YusufAli, Abdullah 

Alfons H. Teipen 
Furman University, SC 
Empires: Umayyad 

Frances Trix 
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 
Balkans, Islam in the 

Berna Turam 

McGill University, Canada 
Nur Movement 

A. Uner Turgay 
McGill University, Canada 
Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal 
Gasprinskii, Isma'il Bay 
Nationalism: Turkish 
Nursi, Said 

Sufia Uddin 
University of Vermont, Burlington 

Atoami League 

Nelly van Doom-Harder 
Valparaiso University, IN 
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) 
Southeast Asia, Islam in 
Southeast Asian Culture and Islam 

Kees Versteegh 
University of Nijmegen, The 

Arabic Language 
Grammar and Lexicography 

Knut S. Vik0r 
University at Bergen, Norway 
Ahmad Ibn Idris 

John O. Voll 
Georgetown University 
Islam and Islamic 
Mahdi, Sadiq al- 
Republican Brothers 

Turabi, Hasan al- 
West, Concept of in Islam 

Peter von Sivers 
University of Utah 
'Abd al-Qadir, Amir 

John Walbridge 
Indiana University, Bloomington 

Baha'i Faith 
Suhrawardi, al- 

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea 
University of Texas, Austin 

Earle Waugh 
University of Alberta, Canada 

Mark Wegner 
Tulane University, LA 


David Westerlund 
Uppsala University, Sweden 

Brannon M. Wheeler 
University of Washington 
Abu Hanifa 
Body, Significance of 

Gerard Wiegers 
Leiden University, The 

Devotional Life 

Quintan Wiktorowicz 
Rhodes College, TN 

Modernization, Political: 

Participation, Political Movements, 
and Parties 

Peter Lamborn Wilson 
Independent Scholar 


Mark R. Woodward 
University of Arizona 
Reform: Southeast Asia 

Neguin Yavari 
Columbia University 


Muhammad Qasim Zaman 
Brown University 

Ma'mun, al- 




islam and the Muslim World 

Synoptic Outline of Entries 

This outline provides a general overview of the conceptual structure of the Encyclopedia of Islam 
and the Muslim World. The outline is organized under nine major categories, which are further 
split into twe?ity-five subcategories. The entries are listed alphabetically within each categoiy or 
subcategory. For ease of reference, the same entry may be listed under several categories. 

Biographies: Political and other 
Public Figures 

'Abbas I, Shah 
c Abd al-Qadir, Amir 
Abd al-Rahman Kawakibi 
c Abd al-Hamid Kishk (Shaykh) 
Abd al-Karim Sorush 
Abd al-Nasser, Jamal 
Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri 
Abu 1-Qasem Kashani 
Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi 
Ahmad Khan, (Sir) Sayyid 

Askiya Muhammad 
Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal 
Bourghiba, Habib 
Erbakan, Necmeddin 
Fasi, Muhammad Allal al- 
Gasprinskii, Isma'il Bay 
Isma'il I, Shah 
Jevdet Pasha 
Kemal, Namik 
Khalid, Khalid Muhammad 
Mahdi, Sadiq al- 
Mansa Musa 

Mosaddeq, Mohammad 
Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi 
Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj 
Nader Shah Afshar 
Nizam al-Mulk 
Nuri, Fazlallah 
Nursi, Said 

Qadhdhafi, Mu'ammar al- 
Reza Shah 
Rushdie, Salman 
Sadat, Anwar al- 


Saleh bin Allawi 

Shar'it Shangalaji, Reza-Qoli 

Sirhindi, Shaykh Ahmad 

Tahmasp I, Shah 

Uthman dan Fodio 

Wali Allah, Shah 

Yahya bin 'Abdallah Ramiya 

Zand, Karim Khan 

Biographies: Religious and Cultural 

c Abd al-Baha 5 
Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis 
'Abd al-Jabbar 

Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad Ibn 

'Abduh, Muhammad 

Abu Bakr 

Abu Bakr Gumi 

Abu Hanifa 

Abu '1-Hasan Bani-Sadr 
Abu '1-Hudhayl al- c Allaf 
Afghani, Jamal al-Din 
Aga Khan 

Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam 
Ahmad Gran 
Ahmad ibn Idris 
c A 3 isha 

Bab, Sayyed 'Ali Muhammad 


Bamba, Ahmad 

Banna, Hasan al- 

Baqillani, al- 

Basri, Hasan al- 

Bazargan, Mehdi 

Biruni, al- 
Bukhari, al- 

Fadlallah, Muhammad Husayn 

Farrakhan, Louis 


Ghannoushi, Rashid al- 
Ghazali, al- 

Ghazali, Muhammad al- 
Ghazali, Zaynab al- 
Hajj Salim Suwari, al- 
Haj 'Umar al-Tal, al- 
Hallaj, al- 
Haron, Abdullah 

Hashemi-Rafsanjani, c Ali-Akbar 


Husayn, Taha 

Husayni, Hajj Amin al- 

Khidr, al- 

Karaki, Shaykh 'Ali 

Hilli, 'Allama al- 

Hilli, Muhaqqiq al- 

Ibn 'Arabi 

Ibn Battuta 

Ibn Hanbal 

Ibn Khaldun 

Ibn Maja 

Ibn Rushd 

Ibn Sina 

Ibn Taymiyya 

Iqbal, Muhammad 

Ja'far al-Sadiq 

Jamil al-Amin, Imam 

Jinnah, Muhammad c Ali 

Khamane'i, Sayyed Ali 

Khan, Reza of Bareilly 

Kho'i, Abol Qasem 


Synoptic Outline of Entries 

Khomeini, Ruhollah 
Kindi, al- 

Kunti, Mukhtar al- 
Madani, 'Abbasi 
Malik, Ibn Anas 
Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir 
Malcolm X 
Nasa'i, al- 

Makassar, Shaykh Yusuf 
Maturidi, al- 
Maududi, Abu l-A'la' 
Mojtahed-Shabestari, Mohammad 
Motahhari, Mortaza 
Muhammad, Elijah 
Muhammad, Warith Deen 
Muhammad Ahmad Ibn 'Abdullah 
Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya 
Muhasibi, al- 
Mulla Sadra 

Na'ini, Mohammad Hosayn 

Nasa'i, al- 

Nazzam, al- 

Qutb, Sayyid 

Rabi'a of Basra 

Rahman, Fazlur 

Rashid, Harun al- 

Rida, Rashid 

Rumi, Jalaluddin 

Sadr, Muhammad Baqir al- 

Sadr, Musa al- 

Shafi c i, al- 

Shaltut, Mahmud 

Shari'ati, c Ali 

Siba'i, Mustafa al- 

Suhrawardi, al- 


Suyuti, al- 

Tabari, al- 

Thaqafi, Mukhtar al- 

Turabi, Hasan al- 

Tusi, Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan 

(Shaykh al-Ta c ifa) 
Tusi, Nasir al-Din 
c Umar 

Umm Kulthum 
Uthman ibn 'Affan 
Yusuf Ali, 'Abdullah 

Culture: Arts, Architecture, and 



Dome of the Rock 
Khanqah (Khanaqah, Khanga) 
Manar, Manara 
Material Culture 


Vernacular Islam 

Culture: Disciplines and Fields of 







Science, Islam and 

Culture: Concepts 







Culture: Language and Literature 

Arabic Language 
Arabic Literature 
Biography and Hagiography 
Grammar and Lexicography 
Persian Language and Literature 

Urdu Language, Literature, and 

Vernacular Islam 

Culture: Regional 

African Culture and Islam 
American Culture and Islam 
Central Asian Culture and Islam 
East Asian Culture and Islam 
European Culture and Islam 
South Asian Culture and Islam 
Southeast Asian Culture and Islam 

Culture: Other 

Identity, Muslim 
Humor in Islam 

Family, Ethics and Society 


Conflict and Violence 



Ethics and Social Issues 








Hospitality and Islam 

Human Rights 








Women, Public Roles of 

Geography: Regions 

Americas, Islam in the 
Africa, Islam in 
Balkans, Islam in the 
Central Asia, Islam in 
East Asia, Islam in 
Europe, Islam in 
South Asia, Islam in 
Southeast Asia, Islam in 
United States, Islam in the 
West, Concept of 

Geography: Countries, Cites and 

Andalus, al- 
Arabia, Pre-Islam 

Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 




Holy Cities 

Iran, Islamic Republic of 





Pakistan, Islamic Republic of 







Groups, Organizations, Schools, 
and Movements: Political 

Arab League 
Awami League 
Ba c th Party 

xxxi i 

islam and the Muslim World 

Synoptic Outline of Entries 




Nahdatul Ulama (NU) 
Organization of the Islamic 

Refah Partisi 

Young Ottomans 
Young Turks 

Croups, Organizations, Schools, 
and Movements: Religious 


Ash'arites, Asha'ira 
Feda'iyan-e Islam 
Hizb Allah 
Ikhwan al-Muslimin 
Ikhwan al-Safa 
Islamic Jihad 

Islamic Society of North America 

Muslim Student Association of 

North America 
Tablighi Jama'at 
Youth Movements 

History: Concepts 




Historical Writing 

Hukuma al-Islamiyya, al- (Islamic 


History: Events 

Religious and Political 




History: Institutions 


Coinage and Exchange 
Economy and Economic Institu- 

Religious Institutions 

History: Periods, Dynasties, 

Arabia, Pre-Islam 

Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 


Empires: Abbasid 

Empires: Byzantine 

Empires: Mongol and Il-Khanid 

Empires: Mogul 

Empires: Ottoman 

Empires: Safavid and Qajar 

Empires: Sassanian 

Empires: Timurid 

Empires: Umayyad 



Hijri Calendar 

Khiva, Khanate of 

Mahdist State, Mahdiyya 




Muhammad c Ali, Dynasty of 
Sultanates: Delhi 
Sultanates: Ghaznavid 
Sultanates: Mamluk 
Sultanates: Modern 
Sultanates: Seljuk 

History: Catalysts of Change 

Greek Civilization 

Liberation Movement of Iran 



Networks, Muslim 


Taj did 

Travel and Travelers 


[ Ada 









Politics and Society 

Military Raid 

Minorities: Dhimmis 

Minorities: Offshoots of Islam 








Pluralism: Legal and Ethno- 

Pluralism: Political 
Political Islam 
Political Organization 
Political Thought 

Reform: Arab Middle East and 

North Africa 
Reform: Iran 

Reform: Muslim Communities of 

the Russian Empire 
Reform: South Asia 
Reform: Southeast Asia 
Republican Brothers 
Revolution: Classical Islam 
Revolution: Islamic Revolution in 


Revolution: Modern 
Saudi Dynasty 
Velayat-e Faqih 

Religion: Groups, Movements, and 

AM al-Bayt 
AM al-Hadith 
AM al-Kitab 

Ahl-e Hadis / AM al-Hadith 



Baha'i Faith 




Hojjatiyya Society 
Ishraqi School 
Islamic Salvation Front 
Jam'iyat-e c Ulama-e Hind 
Jam'iyat-e c Ulama-e Islam 
Jam'iyat-e c Ulama-e Pakistan 
Jama c at-e Islami 
Kharijites, Khawarij 

islam and the Muslim World 

xxxi i i 

Synoptic Outline of Entries 

Khilafat Movement 




Mojahedin-e Khalq 


Muhammadiyya (Muhammadiyah) 
Murji'ites, Murji'a 
Mu'tazilites, Mu'tazila 
Nation of Islam 

Nur Movement 
Qa'ida, al- 
Religious Beliefs 
Religious Institutions 
Shi'a: Early 
Shi'a: Imami (Twelver) 
Shi'a: Isma'ili 
Shi'a: Zaydi (Fiver) 


Religion: Ideas, Beliefs, Concepts, 
and Doctrines 


Bid c a 

Body, Significance of 

Dar al-Harb 

Dar al-Islam 
















Modern Thought 













Ta'ziya (Ta c ziye) 

Wahdat al-Wujud 

Wajib al-Wujud 



Religion: Institutions 

Azhar, al- 

Khanqa (Khanaqa, Khanga) 



Religion: Places and Sites 


Dome of the Rock 

Hojjatiyya Society 

Holy Cities 



Jami 1 






Religion: Practices and Rituals 


Da c wa 

Devotional Life 

Dietary Laws 











Pilgrimage: Hajj 
Pilgrimage: Ziyara 

Religion: Relations with Non- 

Christianity and Islam 
Hinduism and Islam 
Islam and Other Religions 
Judaism and Islam 

Religion: Titles and Offices 

Ayatollah (Ar. Ayatullah) 
Hojjat al-Islam 

Islam and Islamic 
Islamicate Society 

Marja' al-Taqlid 



Qadi (Kadi, Kazi) 




Shaykh al-Islam 


islam and the Muslim World 

List of Maps 

Maps accompany the following entries, and are located on the provided pages. 

Africa, Islam in \1 5\ 

i — i 

Arabia, Pre Islam $2, 

Balkans, Islam in '.102, 

Balkans, Islam in '.103; 

Crusades '.163; 

Europe, Islam in '23i\ 

Expansion \243\ 

Ibn Battuta Volume one color insert 

Law ~40&, 

Law '41 6, 

Muhammad #7$ 

Networks '.509, 

South Asia, Islam in 'S3 9; 

Southeast Asia, Islam in '646, 

Sultanates: Ayyubids 659 

'ABBAS I, SHAH (1571-1629) 

Shah 'Abbas I, the fifth ruler of the Safavid dynasty, ruled Iran 
from 1587 until 1629, the year of his death. Shah 'Abbas came 
to power at a time when tribal unrest and foreign invasion had 
greatly reduced Iran's territory. Once on the throne he set 
out to regain the lands and authority that had been lost by his 
immediate successors. His defeat of the Uzbeks in the north- 
east and the peace he made with the Ottoman Empire, Iran's 
archenemy, enabled Shah Abbas to reform Iran's military 
and financial system. He diminished the military power of the 
tribes by creating a standing army composed of slave soldiers 
who were loyal only to him. These so-called ghulams (military 
slaves) were mostly Armenians and Georgians captured dur- 
ing raids in the Caucasus. In order to increase the revenue 
needed for these reforms the shah centralized state control, 
which included the appointment of ghidatns to high adminis- 
trative positions. 

With the same intent he fostered trade by reestablishing 
road security and by building many caravan series throughout 
the country. Under Shah 'Abbas, Isfahan became Iran's 
capital and most important city, endowed with a new com- 
mercial and administrative center grouped around a splendid 
square that survives today. His genius further manifested 
itself in his military skills and his astute foreign policy. He 
halted the eastward expansion of the Ottomans, defeating 
them and taking Baghdad in 1623. To encourage trade and 
thus gain treasure, he welcomed European merchants to the 
Persian Gulf. He also allowed Christian missionaries to settle 
in his country, hopeful that this might win him allies among 
European powers in his anti-Ottoman struggle. Famously 
down to earth, Shah 'Abbas was a pragmatic ruler who could 
be cruel as well as generous. Rare among Iranian kings, he is 
today remembered as a ruler who was concerned about his 
own people. 

A detail from a miniature painting of 'Abbas I (1571-1629) 
appears in the volume one color plates. 

See also Empires: Safavid and Qajar. 

Matthee, Rudolph P. The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk 
for Silver, 1600-1730. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, 1999. 

Savory, Roger. Iran under the Safavids. Cambridge, U.K.: 
Cambridge University Press, 1980. 

Rudi Matthee 

C ABD AL-BAHA 3 (1844-1921) 

Abd al-Baha 3 'Abbas, also known as 'Abbas Effendi, was the 
son of Baha'allah (Mirza Husayn Ali, 1817-1892), the founder 
of the Baha'i religion. In his final will and testament, Baha'al- 
lah designated him as his successor and authoritative expounder 
of his teachings. Born in Tehran on 23 May 1844, he grew up 
in the household of a father committed to the teachings of the 
Babi movement and consequently shared his father's fate of 
exile and intermittent imprisonment until the Young Turk 
revolution of 1909. 

As a result, Abd al-Baha 5 received little formal education 
and had to manage the affairs of his father's household at a 
very early age. Despite these setbacks, he demonstrated a 
natural capacity for leadership and a prodigious knowledge of 
human history and thought. 

'Abd al-Baha' corresponded with and enjoyed the respect 
of a number of the luminaries of his day, including the 
Russian author Leo Tolstoy and the Muslim reformer Mu- 
hammad 'Abduh. He left behind a small portion of what is a 
large corpus of still-unexplored writings that include social 
commentaries, interpretations, and elaborations of his fa- 
ther's works, mystical treatises, and Qur'anic and biblical 


'Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis 

Upon his release from house imprisonment in 1909, 'Abd 
al-Baha 5 traveled to North Africa, Europe, and North Amer- 
ica advocating a number of reforms for all countries, includ- 
ing the adoption of a universal auxiliary language, global 
collective security, mandatory education, and full legal and 
social equality for women and minorities. He also warned of a 
coming war in Europe and called for a just system of global 
government and international courts where disputes between 
nations could be resolved peacefully. 

'Abd al-Baha 3 died on 28 November 1921. According to 
his will and testament, his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi 
Rabbani, became the head of the Baha'i community and the 
sole authorized interpreter of his grandfather and great- 
grandfather's teachings. 

See also Baha'allah; Baha'i Faith. 

William, McCants 



'Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis was the leader of the Islamic 
reformist movement in Algeria and founder of the Association 
des Ulema Musulmanes Algeriens (AUMA). He was born in 
1889 in Constantine, where he also died in 1940. After 
receiving a traditional education in his hometown, Ibn Badis 
(locally referred to as Ben Badis) studied at the Islamic 
University of Zaytuna, in Tunis, from 1908 to 1912. In the 
following years he journeyed through the Middle East, par- 
ticularly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where he came into 
contact with modernist and reformist currents of thought 
spreading within orthodox Sunni Islam. 

Ibn Badis became the most prominent promoter of the 
Islamic reformist movement in Algeria, first through his 
preaching at the mosque of Sidi Lahdar in his hometown, 
and, after 192 5, through his intensive journalistic activity. He 
founded a newspaper, Al-Muntaqid (The critic), which closed 
after a few months. Immediately afterwards, however, he 
began a new and successful newspaper, Al-Shihab (The me- 
teor), which soon became the platform of the reformist 
thinking in Algeria, until its closure in 1939. Through the 
pages of Al-Shihab, Ibn Badis spread the Salafiyya movement 
in Algeria, presented his Qur'anic exegesis, and argued the 
need for Islamic reform and a rebirth of religion and religious 
values within a society that, in his view, had been too influ- 
enced by French colonial rule. He further argued that the 
Algerian nation had to be founded on its Muslim culture and 
its Arab identity, and for this reason he is also considered a 
precursor of Algerian nationalism. He promoted the free 
teaching of Arabic language, which had been marginalized 
during the years of French rule, and the establishment of free 

schools for adults, where traditional Qur'anic studies could 
be taught. 

In May 193 1 he founded the AUMA (also Association of 
Algerian Muslim Ulema), which gathered the country's lead- 
ing Muslim thinkers, initially both reformist and conserva- 
tive, and subsequently only reformist, and served as its president 
until his death. Whereas the reformist programs promoted 
through Al-Shihab had managed to reach an audience limited 
to the elite educated class of the country, the AUMA became 
the tool for a nationwide campaign to revive Islam, Arabic, 
and religious studies, as well as a center for direct social and 
political action. Throughout the country he founded a net- 
work of Islamic cultural centers that provided the means for 
the educational initiatives he advocated and the establish- 
ment of Islamic youth groups. He also spearheaded a cam- 
paign against Sufi brotherhoods, accusing them of introducing 
blameworthy innovations to religious practice, and also of 
cooperating with the colonial administration. He played an 
important political role in the formation of the Algerian 
Muslim Congress in 1936, which arose in reaction to the 
victory of the Popular Front in France, and was active 
politically in the country until his premature death in 1940. 
Thanks to his activities as leader of the AUMA and to his 
writing in Al-Shihab, Ibn Badis is considered by some to be 
the most important figure of the Arab-Islamic cultural revival 
in Algeria during the 1930s. 

See also Reform: Arab Middle East and North Africa; 


Merad, Ali. Le Re'formisme Musulman en Algerie de 1925 a 
1940. Paris: Mouton, 1967. 

Safi, Hammadi. "Abdel Hamid Ben Badis entre les exigen- 
cies du dogme et la contrainte de la modernite." In 
Penseurs Maghrebins Contemporains. Casablanca: Editions 
EDDIF, 1993. 

Claudia Gazzini 


A pioneering "cassette preacher" of the 1970s, 'Abd al- 
Hamid Kishk was born in the Egyptian Delta village of 
Shubrakhut, the son of a small merchant. Early on he experi- 
enced vision impairment, and lost his sight entirely as a young 
teen. He memorized the Qur'an by age twelve, attended 
religious schools in Alexandria and Cairo, then enrolled at al- 
Azhar University. He graduated in 1962, first in his class, but 
rather than an expected nomination to the teaching faculty, 
he was appointed imam at a Cairo mosque. 


islam and the Muslim World 

'Abd al-Karim Sorush 

Kishk ran afoul of the Nasser regime in 1965. He claimed 
he was instructed to denounce Sayyid Qutb, refused, and 
subsequently was arrested and tortured in prison. In the early 
1970s, cassette recordings of his sermons and lessons began 
to proliferate throughout Egypt; by the late 1970s he was 
arguably the most popular preacher in the Arab world. 
Attendance at his mosque skyrocketed, reaching 100,000 for 
Friday sermons by the early 1980s. In September 1981 he was 
arrested as part of Anwar al-Sadat's crackdown on political 
opponents, and was in prison when Sadat was assassinated. 
Upon his release he regained his following. He published his 
autobiography, The Story of My Days, in 1986. He died a 
decade later, in 1996. 


Jansen, Johannes J. G. The Neglected Duty : The Creed of Sadat's 
Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East. New 
York and London: Macmillan, 1986. 

Kepel, Gilles. Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and 
Pharaoh. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Califor- 
nia Press, 1993. 

Joel Gordon 

C ABD AL-JABBAR (935-1025) 

c Abd al-Jabbar was a Mu c tazilite theologian and Shafi c ite 
jurist, known as Qadi 'Abd al-Jabbar b. Ahmad al-Hamadani. 
He was born in Asadabad in Iran about 935, studied kalam 
with Abu Ishaq al-'Ayyash in Basra, and associated with the 
prominent Mu'tazilite scholar Abu 'Abdullah al-Basri in 
Baghdad. 'Abd al-Jabbar was appointed as chief judge of Rayy 
with a great authority over other regions in northern Iran by 
the Buyid wazir Sahib b. 'Abbad in 977. Following his 
dismissal from the post after the death of Ibn c Abbad, he 
devoted his life to teaching. In 999 he made a pilgrimage to 
Mecca through Baghdad, where he spent some time. He 
taught briefly in Kazvin (1018-1019) and died in 1025 in Ray. 

As the teacher of the well-known Mu'tazilites of the 
eleventh century, such as Abu Rashid al-Nisaburi, Ibn 
Mattawayh, Abu '1-Husayn al-Basri, and as the master of 
Mu c tazilism in its late period, 'Abd al-Jabbar elaborated and 
expanded the teachings of Bahshamiyya, the subgroup named 
after Abu Hashim al-Jubba 5 i. He synthesized some of the 
Mu c tazilite views with Sunni doctrine on the relation of 
reason and revelation, and came close to the Shi'ite position 
on the question of leadership iimama). He is also a significant 
source of information on ancient Iranian and other monothe- 
istic religions. 

'Abd al-Jabbar wrote many works on kalam, especially on 
the defense of the Qur'an, and on the Prophet of Islam. Some 
of his books, including most of his twenty-volume work al- 
Mughni, have been published. Commentaries on two of his 

lost books, Sharh al-usul al-khamsa by Qiwam al-Din Mankdim 
and al-Muhit bi'l-taklif by Ibn Mattawayh, are also available. 

See also Kalam; Mu'tazilites, Mu'tazila. 

Frank, Richard M. "The Autonomy of the Human Agent 
in the Teaching of 'Abd al-Gabbar." Le Museon 95 
(1982): 323-355. 

Heemskerk, M. T. Suffering in the Mu'tazilite Theology: Abd 
al-Jabbar's Teaching on Pain and Divine Justice. Leiden: 
Brill, 2000. 

Hourani, George F. Islamic Rationalism: The Ethics of Abd al- 
Jabbar. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1971. 

Peters, J. R. T. M. God's Created Speech: A Study in the 
Speculative Theology of the Mu'tazili Qadi l-Qudat Abul- 
Hasan 'Abd al-Jabbar bn Ahmad al-Hamadani. Leiden: 
Brill, 1976. 

M. Sait Ozervarli 


c Abd al-Karim Sorush is the pen-name of Hassan Haj-Faraj 
Dabbagh. Born in 1945 in Tehran, Sorush attended Alavi 
High School, an alternative school that offered a rigorous 
curriculum of Islamic studies in addition to the state-mandated, 
standardized education in math and sciences. He studied 
Islamic law and exegesis with Reza Ruzbeh, one of the 
founders of the school. He attended Tehran University, and 
in 1969 graduated with a degree in pharmacology. He contin- 
ued his postgraduate education in history and philosophy of 
science at Chelsea College in London. In 1979 he returned to 
Iran after the revolution, and soon thereafter was appointed 
by Ayatollah Khomeini to the Cultural Revolution Council. 
He resigned from this controversial post in 1983. 

In his most celebrated book, Qabz va Bast-i Teorik-i 
Shari'at (The theoretical constriction and expansion of the 
shari'a), Sorush developed a general critique of dogmatic 
interpretations of religion. He argued that, when turned into 
a dogma, religion becomes ideological and loses its universal- 
ity. He held that religious knowledge is inevitably historical 
and culturally contingent, and that it is distinct from religion, 
the truth of which is solely possessed by God. He posited that 
culture, language, history, and human subjectivity mediate 
the comprehension of the revealed text. Therefore, human 
understandings of the physical world, through science, for 
instance, and the changing nature of the shared values of 
human societies (such as citizenship and social and political 
rights) inform and condition religious knowledge. 

There was a contradiction between Sorush's understand- 
ing of epistemological problems of human knowledge, which 
he saw as logical and methodical, and his emphasis on the 

islam and the Muslim World 


'Abd al-Nasser, Jamal 

historical contingencies of the hermeneutics of the divine 
text. This contradiction was resolved in his later writing in 
favor of a more hermeneutical approach. In his early work, he 
was influenced by analytical philosophy and skepticism of a 
post-positivist logic, whereas in his later writings he adopted 
a more hermeneutical approach to the meaning of the sacred 
text. In his earlier work he put forward epistemological 
questions about the limits and truthfulness of claims regard- 
ing knowledge, but in two important later books, Siratha-yi 
mustaqim (1998, Straight paths) and Bast-e tajrubih-e Nabavi 
(1999, The expansion of the prophetic experience), he em- 
phasized the reflexivity and plurality of human understand- 
ing. In his plural usage of the Qur 3 anic phrase "straight 
paths," Sorush offered a radical break with both modernist 
and orthodox traditions in Islamic theology. 

In the 1990s, Sorush emerged as one the most influential 
Muslim thinkers in Iran. His theology contributed to the 
emergence of a generation of Muslim reformers who chal- 
lenged the legitimization of the Islamic Republic's rule based 
on divine sources rather than on democratic principles and 
popular consent. 

See also Iran, Islamic Republic of; Khomeini, RuhoIIah. 

Sadri, Mahmoud, and Sadri, Ahmad, eds. Reason, Freedom, & 
Democracy in Mam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush. 
Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi 


The Egyptian leader who dominated two decades of Arab 
history, Jamal 'Abd al-Nasser was born 15 January 1918, the 
son of a postal official. Raised in Alexandria and Cairo, he 
entered the military academy and was commissioned in 1938. 
Thereafter, he joined a secret Muslim Brotherhood cell, 
where he met fellow dissidents with whom he later founded 
the Free Officers. On 23 July 1952 the Free Officers seized 
power; within a year they outlawed political parties and 
established a republic. In 1954, they dismissed the figurehead 
president Muhammad Najib (Naguib) and repressed all op- 
position. Elected president in June 1956, Nasser ruled until 
his death. Under his leadership Egypt remained a one-party 
state. The ruling party changed names several times; the Arab 
Socialist Union, formed in 1962, survived until 1978 when 
Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat, abolished it. 

A charismatic leader, Nasser drew regional acclaim and 
international notoriety for his championship of pan-Arabism 
and his leadership role in the Non-Aligned Movement. His 
popularity soared during the 1956 Suez Crisis, sparked by 

Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal Company. The 
tripartite British-French-Israeli invasion failed to topple his 
regime and solidified his reputation. Frustrated with the pace 
of social and economic reform, in the early 1960s Nasser 
promoted a series of socialist decrees nationalizing key sec- 
tors of industry, agriculture, finance, and the arts. Egypt's 
relations with the Soviet bloc improved, but Nasser never 
turned entirely away from the West. In regional affairs the 
years after Suez were marked by a series of setbacks. The 
United Arab Republic (1958-1961) ended with Syria's cessa- 
tion, and the Yemeni civil war (1962-1967) entangled Egyp- 
tian troops in a quagmire. 

Many contend that Nasser never recovered from the 
disastrous defeat by Israel in June 1967. Yet he changed the 
face of Egypt, erasing class privileges, narrowing social gaps, 
and ushering in an era of optimism. If Egyptians fault his 
failure to democratize and debate the wisdom of Arab social- 
ism or the state's secular orientation, many still recall his 
populist intentions. When he died suddenly of a heart attack 
on 28 September 1970, millions accompanied his coffin to 
the grave. 

See also Nationalism: Arab; Pan-Arabism. 

Gordon, Joel. Nassers Blessed Movement: Egypt's Free Officers 
and the July Revolution. 2d ed. Cairo: American University 
in Cairo Press, 1996. 

Jankowski, James. Nasser's Egypt, Arab Nationalism, and the 
United Arab Republic. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002. 

Joel Gordon 



During the early nineteenth century, 'Abd al-Qadir governed 
a state in Algeria. His family, claiming descent from Muham- 
mad, led a Qadiriyya brotherhood center (zawiya) in western 
Algeria. In 1 83 1 the French conquered the port of Oran from 
the Ottomans. Fighting broke out in the Oranais among 
those tribes formerly subjected to Turkish taxes and those 
privileged to collect them. The Moroccan sultan, failing to 
pacify the tribes on his border, designated 'Abd al-Qadir's 
influential but aging father as his deputy. He, in turn, had 
tribal leaders proclaim his son commander of the faithful 
(amir al-mu'minin) in 1832. 

The highly educated and well-traveled new amir negoti- 
ated two treaties with France (1834—1837). Happy to cede the 
job of tribal pacification to an indigenous leader, the French 
acknowledged him as the sovereign of western Algeria. 'Abd 
al-Qadir received French money and arms with which he 


islam and the Muslim World 

'Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri 

organized an administration, diplomatic service, and supply 
services, including storage facilities, a foundry, and textile 
workshops, for a standing army of six thousand men. Unfor- 
tunately, frequent disputes, and even occasional battles, punc- 
tured the treaties. The final rupture came when c Abd al- 
Qadir began expanding into eastern Algeria. In response, the 
French decided on a complete conquest of Algeria and 
destroyed c Abd al-Qadir's state (1839-1847), exiling him to 
Damascus. During his exile, the amir immersed himself in 
religious studies. He reemerged briefly into the public eye 
when riots shook Damascus in July 1860. It was then that 
Muslim resentment against perceived advantages enjoyed by 
Christians under the Ottoman reform edict of 1839 exploded 
into widespread killings and lootings. Virtually alone among 
the notables of Damascus, 'Abd al-Qadir shielded Christians 
from Muslim attackers. 

See also Tasawwuf. 

Aouli, Smai'; Redjala, Ramdane; and Zoummeroff, Philippe. 
Abd el-Kader. Paris: Fayard, 1994. 

Danziger, Raphael. Abd al-Qadir and the Algerians: Resistance 
to the French and Internal Consolidation New York: Homes 
& Meier, 1977. 

Peter von Sivers 


An Arab nationalist and reformer, 'Abd al-Rahman Kawakibi 
was born in Aleppo, Syria, where he was educated and worked 
as an official and journalist until being forced by Ottoman 
opposition to relocate to Cairo in 1898. He joined the circle 
of Arab intellectuals surrounding Muhammad 'Abduh and 
Rashid Rida. Kawakibi's ideas are elaborated in two books, 
Taba'i' al-istibdad (Characteristics of tyranny) and Umm al- 
qura (Mother of cities). In the first, he argues that the 
Muslims's political decline is the result of their straying from 
original Islamic principles and the advent of mystical and 
fatalist interpretations. Such passivity, he argues, plays into 
the hands of despotic rulers, who historically have benefited 
from false interpretations of Islam. The book was a condem- 
nation of the rule of the Ottoman Turks, and particularly of 
the sultan 'Abd al-Hamid II. A revival of Islamic civilization 
could come only after fresh interpretation of law (ijtihad), 
educational reforms, and sweeping political change, begin- 
ning with the institution of an Arab caliphate in the place of 
the Ottoman Turks. The theme of renewed Arab leadership 
in the Muslim umma is developed in the second book. The 
title is taken from a Qur'anic reference to Mecca, where 
Kawakibi places a fictional conference of representatives 

from various Muslim countries aimed at charting the reform 
of Muslim peoples. 

See also Modernization, Political: Administrative, Mili- 
tary, and Judicial Reform; Modernization, Political: 
Authoritarianism and Democratization; Moderniza- 
tion, Political: Constitutionalism; Modernization, 
Political: Participation, Political Movements, and 


Husry, Khaldun S. Three Reformers: A Study in Modern Arab 
Political Thought. Beirut: Khayats, 1966. 

Kramer, Martin. Islam Assembled: The Advent of the Muslim 
Congresses. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 

Sohail H. Hashmi 


c Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanhuri was one of the most distinguished 
jurists and principal architects of modern Arab civil laws. Al- 
Sanhuri, a native of Alexandria, Egypt, obtained his law 
degree from what was then known as the Khedival School of 
Law of Cairo in 1917. He held different public posts includ- 
ing that of assistant prosecutor at the Mixed Courts of 
Mansura and as a lecturer at the Shari'a School forjudges. In 
1921, he was awarded a scholarship to study law at the 
University of Lyon in France. In France, he wrote two 
doctoral dissertations, one on English law and the other on 
the subject of the caliphate in the modern age. In 1926, al- 
Sanhuri returned to Egypt where he became a law professor 
at the National University (now the Cairo University), and 
eventually became the dean of the law faculty. Because of his 
involvement in politics, and defense of the Egyptian Consti- 
tution, he was fired from his post in 1936, and left Egypt to 
become the dean of the Law College in Baghdad. 

After one year, he returned to Egypt where he held several 
high-level cabinet posts before becoming the president of the 
Council of State in 1949. Initially, al-Sanhuri supported the 
movement of the Free Officers who overthrew the Egyptian 
monarch in 1952, but because of al-Sanhuri's insistence on a 
return to civilian democratic rule and his defense of civil 
rights, he was ousted from his position and persecuted. After 
1954, al-Sanhuri withdrew from politics and focused his 
efforts on scholarship and modernizing the civil codes of 
several Arab countries. Al-Sanhuri heavily influenced the 
drafting of the civil codes of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and 
Kuwait. One year before his death in Egypt, al-Sanhuri 
completed a huge multivolume commentary on civil law, 
called al-Wasit fi shark al-qanun al-madani, which is still 

islam and the Muslim World 


c Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad Ibn 

considered authoritative in many parts of the Arab world. He 
also wrote several highly influential works on Islamic con- 
tractual law, the most famous of which are Masadir al-haqq fi 
al-fiqh al-lslami and Nazariyyat al-aqdfi al-fiqh al-hlami. One 
of al-Sanhuri's most notable accomplishments was that he 
integrated and reconciled the civil law codes, which were 
French based, with classical Islamic legal doctrines. For 
instance, he is credited with making Egyptian civil law more 
consistent with Islamic law. 

See also Law; Modernization, Political: Constitution- 


Hill, Enid. Al-Sanhuri and Islamic Law. Cairo: American 
University of Cairo Press, 1987. 

Khaled Abou El-Fadl 

IBN (1703-1792) 

Muhammad Ibn c Abd al-Wahhab was a religious scholar and 
conservative reformer whose teachings were elaborated by 
his followers into the doctrines of Wahhabism. Ibn 'Abd al- 
Wahhab was born in the small town of Uyayna located in the 
Najd territory of north central Arabia. He came from a family 
of Hanbali scholars and received his early education from his 
father, who served as judge (qadi) and taught hadith and law at 
the local mosque schools. Ibn Ahd al-Wahhab left Uyayna 
at an early age, and probably journeyed first to Mecca for the 
pilgrimage and then continued to Medina, where he re- 
mained for a longer period. Here he was influenced by the 
lectures of Shaykh c Abdallah b. Ibrahim al-Najdi on the neo- 
Hanbali doctrines of Ibn Taymiyya. 

From Medina, Ibn c Abd al-Wahhab traveled to Basra, 
where he apparently remained for some time, and then to 
Isfahan. In Basra he was introduced directly to an array of 
mystical (Sufi) practices and to Shi'ite beliefs and rituals. This 
encounter undoubtedly reinforced his earlier beliefs that 
Islam had been corrupted by the infusion of extraneous and 
heretical influences. The beginning of his reformist activism 
may be traced to the time when he left Basra around 1739 to 
return to the Najd. 

Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab rejoined his family in Huraymila, 
where his father had recently relocated. Here he composed 
the small treatise entitled Kitab al-tawhid (Book of unity), in 
which he most clearly outlines his religio-political mission. 
He castigates not only the doctrines and practices of Sufism 
and Shi'ism, but also more widespread popular customs 
common to Sunnis as well, such as performing pilgrimages to 
the graves of pious personages and beseeching the deceased 

for intercession with God. More generally, following a line of 
argument developed much earlier by Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn 'Abd 
al-Wahhab challenged the authority of the religious scholars 
(ulema), not only of his own time, but also the majority of 
those in preceding generations. These scholars had injected 
unlawful innovations (bid'a) into Islam, he argued. In order to 
restore the strict monotheism (tawhid) of true Islam, it was 
necessary to strip the pristine Islam of human additions and 
speculations and implement the laws contained in the Qur'an 
as interpreted by the Prophet and his immediate companions. 
Thus, Ibn c Abd al-Wahhab called for the reopening of ijtihad 
(independent legal judgment) by qualified persons to reform 
Islam, but the end to which his ijtihad led was a conservative, 
literal reading of certain parts of the Qur'an. 

Aspects of Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's teachings, including 
asceticism, simplicity of faith, and emphasis on an egalitarian 
community, quickly drew followers to his cause. But his 
condemnation of the alleged moral laxity of society, his 
challenge to the ulema, and to the political authority that 
supported them estranged him from his townspeople and, 
some claim, even from his own family. In 1 740, he returned to 
his native village of Uyayna, where the local ruler (amir) 
c Uthman b. Bishr adopted his teachings and began to act on 
some of them, such as destroying tombs in the area. When 
this activity caused a popular backlash, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab 
moved on to Dir'iyya, a small town in the Najd near present- 
day Riyadh. Here he forged an alliance with the amir Muham- 
mad b. Sa'ud (d. 1765), who pledged military support on 
behalf of Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's religious vocation. Ibn 'Abd 
al-Wahhab spent the remainder of his life in Dir'iyya, teach- 
ing in the local mosque, counseling first Muhammad b. Sa'ud 
and then his son c Abd al-'Aziz (d. 1801), and spreading his 
teachings through followers in the Najd and Iraq. 

See also Wahhabiyya. 

Philby, Harry St. John Bridger. Arabia. New York: 
Scribners, 1930. 

Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Islam in Modem History. Princeton, 
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957. 

Sohail H. Hashmi 


Muhammad 'Abduh was one of the most influential Muslim 
reformers and jurists of the nineteenth century. 'Abduh was 
born in the Nile River delta in northern Egypt and received a 
traditional Islamic education in Tanta. He graduated from al- 
Azhar University in Cairo in 1877, where he taught for the 


islam and the Muslim World 

Abu Bakr 

next two years. It was during this period that he met Jamal al- 
Din Afghani, whose influence upon 'Abduh's thought over 
the next decade would be profound. When Afghani was 
expelled from Egypt in 1879, 'Abduh was also briefly exiled 
from Cairo to his native village. He returned to Cairo the 
following year to become editor of the official government 
gazette, al-Waqa'F al-Misriyya (Egyptian events), and began 
publishing articles on the need for reform in the country. 
When the British occupied Egypt following the 'Urabi revolt 
of 1882, c Abduh was sentenced to three years's exile for 
assisting the nationalists. He lived briefly in Beirut before 
joining Afghani in Paris, where the two would publish the 
short-lived but highly influential journal al-'Urwa al-wuthqa 
("The firmest grip," based on the Qur'anic references 2:256 
and 3 1 :22). 'Abduh returned to Beirut following the journal's 
demise in 1884, and it was during this sojourn that he first met 
Rashid Rida, who would become his chief biographer and 
most distinguished disciple. 

In 1888, following his increasing estrangement from 
Afghani and a consequent rethinking of his earlier revolu- 
tionary ideas, 'Abduh was allowed to return to Cairo. He soon 
began a rapid ascent in Egyptian judicial and political circles. 
Beginning as a judge in the new "native courts" created by the 
Egyptian government, 'Abduh became a member of the 
newly created administrative board for al-Azhar University in 
1895. In 1899, he was appointed a member of the Legislative 
Council, an advisory body serving at the behest of the 
khedive, the ruler of Egypt, and more importantly became in 
the same year the grand mufti, or the chief Islamic jurist, of 
Egypt. As the head of Egypt's religious law courts, 'Abduh 
championed reforms that he saw as necessary to make shari'a 
relevant to modern problems. He argued that the early 
generations of Muslims (the salaf al-salihin, hence the name 
Salafiyya, which is given to 'Abduh and his disciples) had 
produced a vibrant civilization because they had creatively 
interpreted the Qur'an and hadith to answer the needs of 
their times. Such creative jurisprudence (ijtihad) was needed 
in the present, 'Abduh urged. In particular, modern jurists 
must consider public welfare (maslaha) over dogma when 
rendering judgments. The legal opinions (fatwas) he wrote 
for the government and private individuals on such issues as 
polygamy, divorce, and the status of non-Muslims bore the 
imprint of his reformist attitudes. 

During the last years of his life, 'Abduh collaborated with 
Rashid Rida in publishing the journal al-Manar, founded by 
Rida in 1898. The journal became a forum for not only 
'Abduh's legal rulings and reformist essays, but also a Qur'anic 
commentary that had reached the middle of the fourth sura 
(chapter) when 'Abduh died in 1905. Rida would continue 
publishing the journal until his death in 1935. 

The most systematic presentation of 'Abduh's approach 
to Islamic reform is found in his essay Risalat al-tawhid (The 
theology of unity). In opposition to European positivist 

philosophers, he argues that reason and revelation are sepa- 
rate but inextricably linked sources for ethics: "The ground of 
moral character is in beliefs and traditions and these can be 
built only on religion. The religious factor is, therefore, the 
most powerful of all, in respect both of public and of private 
ethics. It exercises an authority over men's souls superior to 
that of reason, despite man's uniquely rational powers" (p. 1 06). 

See also Afghani, Jamal al-Din; Reform: Arab Middle 
East and North Africa; Rida, Rashid; Salafiyya. 


'Abduh, Muhammad. The Theology of Unity. Translated by 
Ishaq Musa'ad and Kenneth Cragg. London: George 
Allen & Unwin, 1966. 

Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798-1939. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 

Kerr, Malcolm H. Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal 
Theories of Muhammad ' Abduh and Rashid Rida. Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 1966. 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

ABU BAKR (573-634) 

Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa, the first caliph (r. 632-634), and a 
member of the clan of Taym of the tribe of the Quraysh, was 
the first adult male convert to Islam, and the Prophet's close 
companion. A merchant and an expert on the genealogies of 
the Arab tribes, Abu Bakr came to be known as al-Siddiq, the 
truthful, or the one who trusts, a reference to the fact that he 
alone immediately believed the Prophet's story of his night 
journey to Jerusalem. Recognized even in Mecca as the 
foremost member of the Muslim community after Muham- 
mad, he is credited with the purchase and release of several 
slaves, including Bilal, renowned for proclaiming the first 
Muslim call to prayer. Abu Bakr was chosen by Muhammad 
to accompany him on his "flight" or hijra to Medina in 622 
c.e. He became Muhammad's father-in-law when his young 
daughter, 'A'isha, married the Prophet. 

Taking the title Khalifat rasul Allah, meaning Successor to 
the Messenger of God, Abu Bakr became the first caliph of 
Islam upon Muhammad's death in 632 c.e. Just before his 
death, Abu Bakr refused to recall the expedition sent to Syria. 
At the same time, he was forced to battle the wars of Apostasy, 
or Ridda, against the Yemen, Yamama, and the tribes of Asad, 
Ghatafan, and Tamim, who refused to pay the tithe or zakat, 
which was considered an integral part of accepting Islam. It 
was because of the death of many leaders during these battles 
that Abu Bakr, on the advice of 'Umar, ordered Zayd b. 
Thabit to compile a collection of the Qur'anic verses. 

See also Caliphate; Succession. 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Abu Bakr Cumi 


Kennedy, Hugh. The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphate. 
London: Longman Group Ltd., 1986. 

Motzki, Harald. "The Collection of die Qur'an: A Reconsid- 
eration of Western Views in Light of Recent Methodo- 
logical Developments." Der Islam 78 (2001): 1-34. 

Watt, Montgomery W. "Abu Bakr." In Encyclopedia of Islam. 
2d ed. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960. 

Rizwi Faizer 

ABU BAKR GUMI (1922-1992) 

Abu Bakr Gumi, born in Gumi/Sokoto province, northern 
Nigeria, was a leading personality in the development of the 
Nigerian Islamic reform movement and author of a number 
of influential works, such as Al-aqida as-sahiha bi-muwafaqat 
ash-shari'a (The sound faith according to the prescriptions of 
the shari'a) and Radd al-adhhanfi ma'ani al-qufan (Reconsid- 
ering the meaning of the holy Qur'an). 

Gumi was one of the first northern Nigerians to experi- 
ence a dual education in the Islamic sciences as well as in the 
British colonial education system. After completing his 
Qur'anic as well as primary school education, Gumi attended 
the Sokoto Middle School from where he went to the Kano 
Law School to be trained as a qadi (Muslim judge) from 1942 
to 1 947 . After graduation he worked briefly as scribe to Alkali 
Attahiru in Sokoto. In 1947 he became a teacher at the Kano 
Law School and was transferred to Maru, Sokoto Province, in 
1949, where he had a confrontation with a local imam as well 
as the sultan of Sokoto over the question of tayammum, the 
ritual ablution with sand. In the context of this confrontation 
with the established authorities Gumi was supported by 
Ahmadu Bello, the future prime minister of northern Nige- 
ria, who in 1955 called upon Gumi to act as his advisor in 
religious affairs and in 1956 appointed him deputy grand kadi 
of northern Nigeria. In this position, and later (from 1962) as 
grand kadi, Gumi was able to carry out a number of reforms in 
the judicial system of northern Nigeria and to fight effec- 
tively against the influence of the Sufi brotherhoods, especially 
the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya. After Bello's assassination in 
1966, Gumi lost his institutional backing and started to 
develop a network of followers that became, in the 1970s, 
northern Nigeria's first reformist Muslim organization, the 
Jama'at izalat al-bid c a wa-iqamat as-sunna (Association for 
the removal of innovation and for the establishment of the 
sunna, 1978). Gumi remained influential in Nigerian relig- 
ious politics in the 1980s when he acted as advisor to presi- 
dents Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) and Ibrahim Babangida 
(1985-1993). From 1962, Gumi was also a member of the 
Rabitat al-'alam al-Islami (Muslim World League), where he 
sat in the Legal Committee, and a member of the World 
Supreme Council for the Affairs of Mosques. 

See also Modern Thought; Political Islam; Wahhabiyya. 

Loimeier, Roman. Islamic Reform and Political Change in 
Northern Nigeria. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University 
Press, 1997. 

Tsiga, Ismaila A. Sheikh Abubakar Gumi: Where I Stand. 
Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books Ltd., 1992. 

Roman Loimeier 

ABU HAN I FA (699-767) 

Abu Hanifa al-Nu'man b. Thabit b. Zurti was the eponymous 
founder of the Hanafi school (madhhab) of Islamic law. His 
birth dates are given variously but the year 699 is considered 
the most sound based on many biographical dictionaries. Abu 
Hanifa died and was buried in Baghdad, though sources differ 
concerning the month of his death. A shrine was built in 1 066 
over the site of his tomb, and the quarter of the city is called 
the al-A'zamiyyah after Abu Hanifa's epithet al-Imam al- 
A c zam, the "Great Imam." 

In his Jawahir al-mudiyya, Ibn Abi al-Wafa' provides a 
genealogy, on the authority of Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Muham- 
mad al-Sarifini (d. 1243), which links Abu Hanifa's family 
with the Sassanian kings, the Kayyanid kings, and Judah, the 
eldest son of the prophet Jacob. Many sources mention that 
Abu Hanifa was of Persian descent, that his family were 
sellers of silk. Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 1 3 74) reports that 
Abu Hanifa's grandfather Zurti (also given as Zuta) is said to 
have been a slave brought from Kabul to Kufa where the 
family was attached to the Arab tribe of Taym-Allah b. 
Tha'laba. Other sources claim that Abu Hanifa's family was 
from Babylon, or the city of Anbar (on the Euphrates about 
forty miles from Baghdad). 

Most Muslim biographical dictionaries focus on the rela- 
tive authority of Abu Hanifa as a transmitter of hadith 
reports. It is said that a number of the younger ahaba 
(Companions) were still alive during the lifetime of Abu 
Hanifa but he only transmitted hadith from one of these, the 
well-known Anas b. Malik (d. 709 or 7 1 1). Among the tabi'un 
(Followers) from whom he transmitted hadith reports are 
'Ata 5 b. Abi Rabah (d. 732 or 733), al-Sha [ bi (d. 724) and 
Nafi c , the client of Ibn 'Umar. Many authorities regard Abu 
Hanifa as a trustworthy transmitter but others question the 
authority of his sources. In his Mizan al-F tidal, al-Dhahabi 
cites opinions that Abu Hanifa should be considered weak as a 
transmitter of hadith, and that his legal opinions rely upon 
personal opinion ira'y). Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi (d. 1083) criti- 
cizes Abu Hanifa for having received most of his knowledge 
of hadith reports from Ibrahim al-Nakha'i rather than from 
the sahabah who were still reliable transmitters during his 


islam and the Muslim World 

Abu '1-Hasan Bani-Sadr 

In terms of his reputation as a jurist, Abu Hanifa is 
credited with founding the Hanafi school of law, and is given 
the epithet "imam" because of this role. In his Tadhkirat ai- 
huffaz, al-Dhahabi repeats a conversation in which Yazid b. 
Harun says that Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 778) was more knowl- 
edgeable in hadith but Abu Hanifa was more knowledgeable 
in jurisprudence and law. Even Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i 
(d. 820), whose legal opinions often rival those of the Hanafis, 
is reported to have attributed great learning in jurisprudence 
to Abu Hanifa. Many sources refer to Hammad b. Abi 
Sulayman (d. 738) as Abu Hanifa's primary teacher in juris- 
prudence, and Joseph Schacht considers Abu Hanifa to have 
adapted the bulk of his legal opinions from him. Yazid b. 
Harun also states that he did not know anyone more pious 
and rational than Abu Hanifa. Bishr b. al-Walid reports that 
Abu Hanifa used to pray all night, and that he never learned 
or transmitted a hadith that he did not himself practice. 

After Abu Hanifa's death his legal opinions and the hadith 
reports that he transmitted were compiled into texts. There 
are no extant collections of works composed by Abu Hanifa 
himself. His legal opinions can be found in the IkhtilafAbi 
Hanifa wa Ibn Abi Layla and the al-Radd 'ala siyar al-Awza'i, 
both attributed to Abu Yusuf (d. 798), one of Abu Hanifa's 
closest disciples. To another of Abu Hanifa's disciples, Muham- 
mad al-Shaybani (d. 805), is attributed the al-Hujjahfi ikhtilaf 
ahl Kufah wa ahl al-Madinah and the Kitab al-asl fi al-furu\ 
both containing the legal opinions of Abu Hanifa which later 
became the basis for Hanafi legal scholarship. Some of the 
hadith reports transmitted by Abu Hanifa can be found 
collected in the Sharh ma c ani al-athar and Bayan mushkil al- 
hadith of Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Tahawi (d. 933), and in the 
\zXsxJami c masanidAbi Hanifa compiled by Abu al-Mu'ayyad 
Muhammad b. Mahmud al-Khwarizmi (d. 1257). 

Classical Hanafi jurisprudence developed primarily as 
compendia and commentaries on the legal opinions of Abu 
Hanifa and their interpretation by his main students, Abu 
Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani. The Mukhtasarfi al-fiqh 
Abi Hanifa al-Nu c man by Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Quduri (d. 
1037) contains a collection of the opinions of these three 
Hanafi authorities, as does the Kitab al-mabsut of Muhammad 
b. Ahmad al-Sarakhsi (d. 1090). The works of later Hanafi 
scholars such as Abu Bakr b. Mas'ud al-Kasani (d. 1191), 'Ali 
b. Abi Bakr al-Marghinani (d. 1 197), 'Abdallah b. Ahmad al- 
Nasafi (d. 1310), [ Uthman b. c Ali al-Zayla [ i (d. 1342), Ibn 
Nujaym (d. 1562), and 'Abd al-Hakim al-Afghani (d. 1907) 
are largely based upon these earlier compilations of opinions 
going back to Abu Hanifa and his immediate disciples. These 
works, building upon the opinions of Abu Hanifa and his 
main students, show the influence of Abu Hanifa upon the 
development of Islamic legal theory and case law. 

Abu Hanifa is also credited with a number of creedal and 
theological works, though some scholars assign the reaction 
of these to followers of Abu Hanifa. Two such works are the 

al-Alim wa al-muta' allim and the Fiqh al-absat, which contain 
a series of questions and answers between Abu Hanifa and his 
disciple Abu Mud' al-Balkhi (d. 799). Extant is a letter written 
by Abu Hanifa to 'Uthman al-Batti, which resembles the 
perspective found in these other works. Also attributed to 
Abu Hanifa is the Fiqh al-akbar, the so-called Fiqh al-akbarll, 
and the Wasiyyat Abi Hanifa. The ten creedal articles of the 
Fiqh al-akbar closely parallel the views found in the Fiqh al- 
absat, but scholars such as Arent Jan Wensinck have assigned 
later dates to the Fiqh al-akbar II and the Wasiyyat Abi Hanifa, 
though they may have been influenced by the earlier works. 
The creedal works of later Hanafis such as Tahawi and Abu 
al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d. 993) may also show the influence 
of Abu Hanifa's theology. Because of Abu Hanifa's close 
association to these creedal statements, later scholars have 
emphasized the influence of Abu Hanifa on the development 
of widespread and officially sanctioned definitions of Mus- 
lim belief. 

See also Law; Madhhab. 

Abu Zahra, Muhammad. Abu Hanifa. 2d ed. Cairo: 1947. 

Dhahabi, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad. Mizan 
al-i 'tidal fi naqd al-rijal. Beirut: Dar al-Ma'arif, n.d. 

Dhahabi, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmed. Kitab tadhkirat 
al-huffaz. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, n.d. 

Dhahabi, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmed. Siyyar a c lam 
al-nubala'. Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risala, 1993. 

Ibn Abi al-Wafa 3 , 'Abd al-Qadir b. Muhammad. Al-Jawahir 
al-mudiyya fi tabaqat al-Hanafiyya. Beirut: Mu'assasat al- 
Risala, 1993. 

Ibn Hajar, Ahmad b. 'Ali. Tahdhib al-tahdhib. Beirut: Dar al- 
Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1994. 

Ibn al-'Imad, Abd al-Hayy. Shadharat al-dhahabfi akhbarmin 
dhahab. Beirut: Dar al-Afaq al-Jadida, n.d. 

Schacht, Joseph. Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. 2d 
ed. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1953. 

Wensinck, Arent Jan. The Muslim Creed: Its Genesis and 
Historical Development. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, 1932. 

Brannon M. Wheeler 


Abu '1-Hasan Bani-Sadr, born in 1933 to a clerical family 
from the city of Hamadan, became the first president-elect of 
the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution. He 
studied Islamic law and economics at the University of 
Tehran, then continued his studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris, 
where his focus was on economics and the role of Islam in 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Abu 'l-Hudhayl al-'Allaf 

social change. Like many of his contemporaries, who com- 
bined western European training with an Islamic education, 
he developed a focus on interpreting Islam as a "unitarian" 
ideology (towhidi) for economic and cultural independence 
from the West, based on the notion of divine unity. 

Bani-Sadr lived in exile in Europe from 1963 until 1979, as 
a result of his political activities at Tehran University. In 
Europe he became one of the most important activists of the 
National Front in Iran and abroad and a key organizer of 
Iranian students outside Iran. He came in contact with 
Ayatollah Khomeini first in 1972, in Najaf, and later in 
France where Khomeini spent his last days in exile. In 1980, 
Bani-Sadr became the first president-elect of the Islamic 
Republic of Iran with 75 percent of the vote. He did not 
represent any organization or political party. In contrast, his 
opponents in the Islamic Republic Party (IRP) were well- 
organized and made advances in the parliamentary election, 
and in the spring of 1980 they dominated the parliament. In 
1980 and 1981 effective power shifted to the IRP parliamen- 
tary majority who named Prime Minister Raja 5 I ignoring 
Bani-Sadr's candidates for the cabinet. He later lost his 
presidency to conservative rivals in the IRP, as a result of a 
parliamentary vote of incompetence and impeachment. Later 
he fled the country and once again joined the exiled opposi- 
tion in Paris. 

See also Iran, Islamic Republic of; Revolution: Islamic 
Revolution in Iran. 


Keddie, Nikki R. Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History 
of Modern Iran. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University 
Press, 1981. 

Mazyar Lotfalian 

(750-C. 850) 

Muhammad b. al-Hudhayl b. Ubaydallah al-'Abdi was the 
first philosophically minded theologian of the Mu'tazilite 
school. Born in Basra around 750 c.e., he lived in the neigh- 
borhood of foragers ('allafun), where he spent the early part of 
his life. He was a student of Uthman al-Tawil, who was one 
of the disciples of Wasil b. c Ata, the founder of al-Mu'tazila. 
He moved to Baghdad in 818 and lived a long life, as various 
dates between 840 and 850 are given for his death. Abu '1- 
Hudhayl opposed some views of his contemporary theologi- 
ans, such as the skeptic dualism of Salih b. 'Abd al-Quddus, 
the determinism of Dirar b. Amr, the physics of Abu Bakr al- 
Asamm, and the ethical theory of Bishr b. Ghiyas al-Marisi. 
He also engaged in polemical discussions with the followers 
of other religions, especially those of the ancient Iranian 

beliefs. His nephew and critic Abu Ishaq al-Nazzam as well as 
Yahya b. Bishr and Abu Ya'qub al-Shahham were among his 
closest students. 

Abu '1-HudhayFs numerous works are not extant, though 
some of his views are quoted in early kalam sources. His 
metaphysics of created beings, indivisible atoms, motion, and 
the cause-effect process of generation (tawallud) provoked 
intellectual discussions and controversies among Mu'tazilites. 
In order to protect the unity itawhid) of God as the main 
principle, he denied the essential nature of things as well as 
the potentiality of being prior to its existence. He also 
rejected a division between the essence and attributes of God. 
Abu 'l-Hudhayl found no contradiction between the author- 
ity of God and His doing good actions with wisdom, since it is 
unthinkable that God does evil or injustice with a total 
absence of deficiency in Him. Therefore, He would only 
create the best and the most convenient (aslah) circumstances 
for His creatures. 

Abu THudhayFs atomistic ontology and highly philo- 
sophical terminology shaped the mind of later Mu'tazilites, 
and his systematic reflections on theological topics make him 
one of the most influential thinkers of Mu'tazilite thought at 
the beginning of its classical age. 

See also Mu'tazilites, Mu c tazila. 

Dhanani, Alnoor. The Physical Theory of Kalam: Atoms, Space, 
and Void in Basrian MuHazili Theology. Leiden: Brill, 1994. 

Ess, Josef van. "Abu'l-Hudhayl in Contact: The Genesis of 
an Anecdote." In Islamic Theology and Philosophy: Studies in 
Honor of George F. Hourani. Edited by Micheal Marmura. 
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984. 

Frank, Richard M. The Metaphysics of Created Being According 
to Abu 'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf: A Philosophical Study of the Earli- 
est Kalam,. Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch 
Instituut, 1966. 

Frank, Richard M. "The Divine Attributes According to the 
Teaching of Abu'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf." he Museon 82 
(1969): 451-506. 

Frank, Richard M. Being and their Attributes: The Teachings of 
Basrian School of the Mu'tazila in the Classical Period. Albany: 
State University of New York Press, 1978. 

M. Sait Ozervarli 


Born in Tehran, Abu '1-Qasem Kashani studied in Najaf and 
became a mujtahid (religious scholar) at the age of twenty- 
five. He began his political activities in Najaf against the 
British domination of Iraq. In 1916, Kashani's father was 

islam and the Muslim World 


killed in an uprising and British authorities condemned 
Kashani to death in absentia. He fled to Iran in 1921 and 
began teaching and preaching in Tehran. 

Kashani was imprisoned in the 1930s because of his pro- 
German activities. In 1949, after an attempt on the Shah's 
life, he was exiled to Lebanon. In June 1950, he returned to 
Iran, was elected to the Majlis, and became its Speaker. 

During the crisis over the nationalization of Iran's oil 
industry and the ensuing conflict with the British (1950-1953), 
Kashani made and broke alliances with the Fedai'yan-e Islam 
and the National Front of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. He 
was instrumental in the assassination of the prime ministers 
'Abd al-Husayn Hazhir and Husayn c Ali Razmara. 

Kashani was an anti-British, anticolonialist, anticommunist, 
constitutionalist, nationalist, and pan-Islamist religious- 
political leader. Although Kashani's opinions about Iranian 
nationalism, the role and function of the shari'a, and attitude 
toward the West differed from his clerical predecessors and 
successors, political activities of the Shi'ite ulema after World 
War II were greatly inspired and influenced by his views and 
activities. Indeed, many of his ideas were elaborated by 
leaders of the revolution of 1978 and 1979, including Ayatol- 
lah Khomeini, and formed the foundation of the Islamic 

See also Feda'iyan-e Islam; Iran, Islamic Republic of; 
Majlis; Mosaddeq, Mohammad. 


Akhavi, Shahrough. "The Role of Clergy in Iranian Politics, 
1949-1954." In Mosaddiq, Iranian Nationalism, and Oil. 
Edited by James Bill and Roger Louis. Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1988. 

Faghfoory, Mohammad H. "The Role of the Ulama in 
Twentieth Century Iran with Particular Reference to 
Ayatullah Hajj Sayyid Abulqasim Kashani." Ph.D. diss., 
University of Wisconsin -Madison, 1978. 

Mohammad H. Faghfoory 


Like all legal systems and theories, Islamic law and its legal 
theory are not free from ambiguity and tensions. Nowhere is 
such ambiguity more pronounced than in the treatment of 
'ada or custom (alternatively called 'urf) in Islamic legal theory. 

Generally, the term 'ada is derived from Arabic, and 
means local customs, recurring habits, and social mores of the 
people. In the context of the epistemology of Islamic law, 
especially as it relates to what constitutes formal sources of 
law, classical Islamic jurisprudence does not recognize cus- 
tom as a formal source. In the normative structure of Islamic 

islam and the Muslim World 

law, it is the Qur J an as God's revealed word that is rated as the 
first primary source. Prophet Muhammad's sunna, that is, his 
conduct, authentic sayings, acts, and behavior that he ap- 
proved is rated as the second primary source. In addition to 
these two sources there other sources (or legal principles) 
such as the consensus (ijma') of Muslim jurists or scholars and 
analogical reasoning (qiyas) — these combined then constitute 
what have become the normative formal sources of Islamic law. 

However, notwithstanding the accepted normative hier- 
archy of what constitutes formal sources, Islam's encounter 
with other host cultures has compelled Islamic legal theory to 
evaluate the status of custom. For example, through such 
encounters, 'ada, that is, the hitherto ambiguous source, has 
throughout the history of Islamic legal theory served as a 
flexible legal principle that helps Islamic law to evolve and 
thus meet the challenge of changing circumstances and times. 
This assertion finds ample support in Muslim juristic think- 
ing. For example, a reflection on the founding jurists of the 
two main Sunni schools of Islamic law, namely, the Maliki 
and Hanafi schools, shows how various legal rules that were 
passed by the founders of these schools were based on the 
strength of communal practice and norms. A good example 
here is the ruling passed by Imam Malik b. Anas (d. 795 c.e.) 
that a woman cannot contract herself in marriage. On the 
same question, the Hanafi jurist, Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 767 
c.e.) gave a different ruling that allowed a mature woman to 
contract herself. What is crucial to note here, though, is not 
so much the question of which of the two opinions is better, 
but rather the fact that the basis of the two legal rulings is 
primarily informed by social reality and what is popular 
communal practice. Noel James Coulson in his seminal 
article titled "Muslim Case Law" has presented a cogent 
argument in which he demonstrates that the opinion of Malik 
reflects the dominant view of marriage and the position of 
women within a predominantly patriarchal tribal society of 
Medina. And by contrast, Abu Hanifa's judgment mirrors the 
cosmopolitan nature of Kufa where women enjoyed a slightly 
more accommodating environment than in Medina. 

Although often denied, the impact of 'ada in Muslim legal 
theory is also evident in Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i (d. 819 
c.e.), founder of the Shafi'i school. For instance, the force of 
communal praxis and the ethos of Egypt obliged al-Shafi c i to 
change a range of legal rulings that he sanctioned while in 
Baghdad before his migration to Egypt. 

In addition to the aforementioned early jurists, the effi- 
cacy of 'ada is also stressed by Abu Ishaq al- Shatibi (d. 1388) 
whom Wael Hallaq in his A History of Islamic Legal Theories 
regards as representing the "culmination" of maturity in 
Islamic legal theory. A critical reading of Shatibi's legal 
philosophy illustrates that 'ada, though often measured under 
the concept of maslaha (public good), does occupy a central 
position in his legal thought. For Shatibi, Islamic law in its 
early phase, that is, in the prophetic era of Muhammad, 

1 1 


simply confirmed most of the pre-Islamic Arabian customs 
practiced by the people before their acceptance of Islam. For 
example, Islamic laws like diya (blood money), rituals of hajj 
(pilgrimage), and interestingly even the Jum'a (Muslim Fri- 
day congregational prayers), though taking a strict Islamic 
identity, were initially practices that were predominant in 
pre-Islamic Arabia. As habitual and popular customs these 
were rehabilitated by Islamic law and confirmed as Islamic 

Moving away from the formative classical period into the 
modern period, especially from the eighteenth to the twenti- 
eth century, examples gleaned from Africa and Asia also show 
that the predominance of custom not only shaped and influ- 
enced shari'a, but custom became a law operating on its own 
right independent of shari'a. What is discernible here is that 
custom in the modern context ceases to be merely a creative 
legal tool whose utility is only limited to make Islamic law 
adaptable to changing circumstances, but as "customary law" 
it becomes part of a dual legal system that is on par with 
shari'a. Again, Coulson provides a good example when he 
points out how in both Africa and Asia local practices, 
especially as they pertain to land tenure, were mostly "regu- 
lated by customary rules" (p. 261). These either comple- 
mented shari'a or simply subsumed it. For instance, in the 
Indian subcontinent this is illustrated in the popular "shari'a 
act of 1 9 3 7 " that was initially designed to cater to all Muslims 
in the region. However, as it turned out, a majority of 
Muslims preferred to be exempted from shari'a thus giving 
primacy to customary laws over the former. 

Finally, it can be concluded that social exigencies, espe- 
cially in the sociocommercial spheres, have compelled a 
majority of Muslim jurists, albeit reluctantly, to recognize 
'ada as a reliable legal tool. This recognition has come largely 
through what these jurists normally refer to as "creative legal 
devices." In particular, it is through these creative legal tools, 
of which custom is one of the central principles, that popular 
religious practices that would otherwise be rejected by shari'a 
find acceptance. Thus maxims such as: "What is known 
through custom is legally binding" and "what is evident 
through custom is as authentic as the text or shari'a''' became 
acceptable principles in Islamic legal theory. 

See also Africa, Islam in; American Culture and Islam; 
Law; South Asia, Islam in; Southeast Asian Culture 
and Islam. 


Coulson, Noel James. "Muslim Custom and Case Law." In 
Islamic Law and Legal Theoiy. Edited by Ian Edge. New 
York: New York University Press, 1996. 

Hallaq, Wael. A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduc- 
tion to Sunni Usui al-Fiqh. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge 
University Press, 1993. 

1 2 

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Principles of Islamic Jurispru- 
dence. Selangor, Malaysia: Pelanduk Publications, 1989. 

Libson, Gideon. "On the Development of Custom as a 
Source of Law in Islamic Law." Islamic Law and Society 4, 
no. 2 (1997): 131-155. 

Masud, Khalid M. Islamic Legal Philosophy: A Study of Abu 
Ishaq al-Shatibi's Life and Thought. Delhi: International 
Publishers, 1989. 

Ziadeh, Farhat. u 'Utf and Law in Islam." In The World of 
Islam: Studies in Honor of Philip K. Hitti. Edited by J. 
Kritzek and R. Winder. London: Macmillan, 1959. 

Tahir Fuzile Sitoto 


The term adab fundamentally denotes a custom or norm of 
conduct. In the early centuries of Islam, the term came to 
convey either an ethical implication of proper personal quali- 
ties or the suggestion of the cultivation and knowledge of a 
range of sensibilities and skills. In its plural form, adab 
acquired the meaning of rules of conduct, often specified for a 
particular social or occupational group, like the aadaab (pi.) of 
the legist or the prince. In addition, adab specified the 
accomplishments that made one polished and urbane, an 
expert in the arts not subsumed under the category of relig- 
ious learning. Often, in recent times, adab has meant simply 
literature in the narrow sense. 

Underlying the concept of adab is a notion of discipline 
and training, indicating as well the good breeding and refine- 
ment that results from such self-control and training. In all its 
uses, adab reflects a high value placed on the employment of 
the will in proper discrimination of correct order, behavior, 
and taste. The term implicitly or explicitly distinguishes 
cultivated behavior from that deemed vulgar, for example, 
from pre-Islamic custom. The term's root sense of proper 
conduct and discrimination, of discipline, and moral forma- 
tion, especially fostered in the Sufi tradition, has been brought 
to the fore in many modern reform movements. In that sense, 
adab is often coupled with akhlaq ("manners," "ethics") and is 
now understood to be within the reach of ordinary people and 
not only educated or holy specialists. 

See also Arabic Literature; Ethics and Social Issues. 

Gabrieli, F. "Adab." In Vol. 1, Encyclopedia of Islam. 2d ed. 
Leiden: Brill, 1960. 

Metcalf, Barbara D., ed. Moral Conduct and Authority: The 
Place of Adab in South Asian Islam. Berkeley: University of 
California Press, 1984. 

Barbara D. Metcalf 
islam and the Muslim World 

Africa, Islam in 


The adhan along with its abridged accompaniment, the iqama, is 
an oral rite linked to mosques, daily prayer, sacred identity, 
and birth rites. The adhan and the iqamah are usually called 
outside and inside mosques, respectively: The former signals 
prayer times, and the latter the beginning of congregational 
prayer. The adhan given in public signals the presence of 
Islam, and gives members of a largely decentralized faith a 
sense of belonging. The adhan functions as a disjuncture 
between the sacred and the profane, between the Friday 
prayer, for instance, and the world of trade. It also distin- 
guishes Islam from other religions: When Muslims needed 
some means to announce the prayer, they asked for a horn, a 
Christian symbol, but were providentially directed to the 
adhan, instead. Finally, the adhan is chanted into the right ear 
of a newborn and the iqama into the left ear. 

The adhan consists of invocations and attestations: Four 
glorify God, two attest to His Oneness, two attest to Muham- 
mad being Messenger, two call to prayer, two call to success, 
two glorify God, and one declares His Oneness. The Shi'ites 
add: [ Ali is the friend of God, and prayer is the best of deeds. 
For a while some mosques in Europe replaced the muezzin 
who called the adhan with a tape recorder, while in Turkey, in 
1948, the government decreed that the adhan be given in 
Turkish. Both these efforts ultimately failed. 

See also Devotional Life; c Ibadat; Masjid. 

Parkin, David, and Headley, Stephen C, eds. Islamic Prayer 
across the Indian Ocean: Inside and Outside the Mosque. 
Surrey, U.K.: Curzon, 2000. 

Muneer Goolam Fareed 



Jamal al-Din Afghani, one of the most influential Muslim 
reformers of the nineteenth century, was most likely born in 
Asadabad, Iran, into a Shi'ite family. Throughout his life, 
however, he emphasized his Afghan ancestry, perhaps to 
broaden his appeal to Sunni Muslims. Little concrete infor- 
mation is available about his early life, but he probably 
received a traditional Islamic education in Iran and Iraq. 
During a visit to India around 1855, he was exposed to 
Western scientific and political thought for the first time. His 
stay in India coincided with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 (the 
Indian revolt against the East India Company), and his 
attitudes toward European and particularly British imperial- 
ism may have begun to form then. Around 1866, Afghani 
began his peripatetic career as a Muslim intellectual and 

islam and the Muslim World 

political activist by accepting a post in the government of 
Afghanistan. Over the next thirty years he traveled to or 
resided in Istanbul, Cairo, Paris, London, Tehran, and St. 
Petersburg, frequently being forced to relocate because of his 
reformist views and political activities. Afghani is commonly 
viewed as the nineteenth century's chief ideologue of pan- 
Islamism. But his ideas, many of them expressed through the 
journal al-'Urwa al-wuthqa (The firmest grip; a reference to 
Qur'an 2:256, 31:22), which he copublished with Muham- 
mad 'Abduh, never amounted to a coherent ideology. More 
than anything else, Afghani was driven by opposition to 
European imperialism in Muslim countries, which he argued 
could be fought only by a rejuvenation of Islamic culture. 

See also Reform: Arab Middle East and North Africa; 


Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798-1939. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 

Keddie, Nikki R. An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political 
and Religious Writings of Sayy id Jamal ad-Din 11 al- Afghani. " 
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. 

Sohail H. Hashmi 


Islam has an important past and present within Africa. It has 
been present in Africa since the very early days of the faith, 
and it constitutes the practice of roughly half the population 
of the continent, or some 250 million people. While most of 
the Muslims live in the northern half, important communities 
can be found in South Africa, Malawi, and other parts of 
southern Africa. This history and this importance are often 
misunderstood in the West and in the Mediterranean centers 
of the Islamic world. Scholars and the intelligent lay public do 
not naturally identify Africa with Islam. 

Indeed, Africa is usually equated with sub-Saharan or 
"black" Africa in most definitions. Egypt and the Maghreb 
are lumped with the Middle East in the language of the 
World Bank, U.S. State Department, and most ministries of 
foreign affairs, as well as in this encyclopedia. The defining 
characteristic of Islam is often the Arabic language, as the first 
language of communication in the home, business, govern- 
ment, and the media, as well as identification with the Arab 
world and thus the origins of Islam. This is not a clear 
definition, however, since Berber languages are still widely 
spoken in the Maghrib and the Sahara, while Arabic is spoken 
by much of the Sudan and important minorities across sub- 
Saharan Africa. 

This article focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and deals with 
Muslim societies rather than "Islam" in one area or another. 

1 3 

Africa, Islam in 

These societies, throughout history and to the present, dem- 
onstrate all of the varieties of the faith that one might expect: 
orthodox practice, radicalism, Sufism, and many creative 
combinations with local, non-Islamic practices. Muslims in 
Africa have practiced the jihad of the sword from time to 
time, but they have also demonstrated a great deal of toler- 
ance of other practices — "pagan," Christian, and other. The 
Maliki school of law has traditionally been dominant in north 
and west Africa, while the Shafi'ite pattern has prevailed 
along the Red Sea and the Swahili coast. 

Northeast Africa 

The earliest Muslim presence in Africa actually antedates the 
event known as the bijra, when Muhammad left Mecca for 
Medina in 622 c.e. At a time when the Prophet was already 
beginning to feel the hostility of his Meccan compatriots, he 
sent a large portion of his followers — about one hundred 
according to the principal hadith — to the Christian emperor 
of Aksum (ancient Abyssinia), an important state in northeast 
Africa, for safekeeping in 615 and 616 c.e. This is sometimes 
called the first hijra. Muhammad called for this community to 
return after he established himself in Medina, and there is 
little evidence of any ongoing Muslim group in Aksum or any 
other part of Ethiopia at this time. But the brief exile demon- 
strates the presence at that time of Ethiopians, including 
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, in Mecca and other areas 
around the Red Sea, as well as the good relations between the 
early Arab Muslims and people in northeast Africa. 

Reasonably good ties continued after Muslim communi- 
ties emerged in northeast Africa close to the Red Sea. Most of 
these communities lived in the lowland and eastern areas, but 
some spread into the mountainous region called Abyssinia, 
which was dominated by Aksum and then a series of other 
states that privileged Christianity and the Orthodox Church. 
Relations between the two faith communities worsened when 
these states, with their Christian and Solomonic ideology, 
expanded to the east in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; 
they executed many Muslims and forced the conversion of 
others. Muslims responded to this in the movement led by 
Ahmad ibn Gran, a cleric and warrior from the coastal region 
in the sixteenth century. This conflict, often characterized by 
the terms "crusade" and "jihad" in the registers of the two 
faiths, has often been taken as characteristic of Ethiopia and 
the Horn of Africa. Hostile confrontations have certainly 
occurred: for example, cases of forced conversion of Muslims 
by expansive Christian emperors in the late nineteenth cen- 
tury, or the conflict over the brief tenure of Lij Iyasu as 
Menilik's successor as emperor of Ethiopia between 1913 and 
1916. Lij Iyasu came from a family that included both 
Muslims and Christians, and he sought to bring some Mus- 
lims into positions in his brief government. He failed because 
of his own inexperience, the strong Christian and church 
predilections of the court, and the conflict between the Axis 
and Allies during World War I. But Ethiopia's population 
today is close to 50 percent Muslim, and Muslims have been 

able to coexist with Christians and other non-Muslim com- 
munities most of the time. 

Gateways of Islam in Africa 

The History of Islam in Africa (2000) identifies two main 
"gateways" of Islamization in the continent. One is the East 
African coast, which became accessible to sailors and mer- 
chants coming down the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, just as 
it had been for previous centuries for Southeast Asians. The 
other is Egypt, and by extension the Maghreb and the Sahara. 

The first Muslims on the East African coast followed in 
the wake of a lot of other maritime travelers from the Near 
East, South, and Southeast Asia. They used an old, well- 
tested technology of sailing close to the coast, down the Red 
Sea or the Persian Gulf, and then along the Indian Ocean. 
Primarily Arab, they were interested in acquiring ivory, gold, 
other metals, leather goods, and some slaves. They interacted 
with the fishing and agricultural peoples along the coast who 
spoke the language that today is called Swahili, which takes its 
name from the plural of sahil, and literally means "people of 
the coast." Over time, roughly the last one thousand years, 
the Swahili language evolved to include a considerable Arabic 
vocabulary, in addition to some Malay and other infusions, 
within a basic Bantu lexicon and language structure. 

The language was the basis for a culture, and both were 
built around small towns along the ocean, running about two 
thousand miles from Mogadishu in the north (today's Somalia) 
to Sofala in the south (today's Mozambique). Most of the 
towns were autonomous city-states, confined essentially to 
islands or the coast, with very small hinterlands devoted to 
farming. The inhabitants of these city-states were committed 
to the vocations of agriculture, fishing, shipbuilding, and 
trade. They lived in the cosmopolitan world built around the 
Indian Ocean and practiced Islam, but acknowledged local 
gods and customs. The more wealthy Swahili often claimed 
paternal origins among the Arabs or Persians. They used 
Islamic forms in the architecture of their homes, as well as for 
mosques and other public buildings. Many of them fulfilled 
the pilgrimage obligation, which was easier to perform than 
from other parts of the African continent. 

The most prosperous period for the Swahili city-states ran 
roughly from 1250 to 1500 c.e. Lamu, located in an archipel- 
ago along the northern coast of modern Kenya, Mombasa, a 
larger city on the southern coast, and Zanzibar, the island 
which forms part of Tanzania, were among the best-known 
and most active cities. The most prosperous was probably 
Kilwa, an island off the southern coast of Tanzania. It was tied 
in to the interior trade, including the commerce in gold that 
tapped into the old Zimbabwe states. 

The main location of the Swahili language, culture, and 
people, and of the practice of Islam, was concentrated on this 
East African littoral until very recent times. Most of the 

1 4 

islam and the Muslim World 

Africa, Islam in 

Muslims were Sunni, but some belonged to the Kharijite 
persuasion through their connections with Oman, a small 
state at the southeastern end of the Arabian peninsula. The 
literate elite, and especially the "professional" Muslims, un- 
derstood and wrote Arabic, but Islam was typically taught 
orally through Swahili explanations. The recourse to expla- 
nation in the local language was common practice through- 
out Africa and many parts of the Islamic world. Beginning 
about three hundred years ago some scholars and writers 
began to adapt the Arabic alphabet to the language, and 
thereby create a written or c ajami literature alongside the 
older oral one. The written corpus contained the same 
stories, chronicles, and poetry as the one that had been 
transmitted orally down the generations. 

The Swahili Muslims did not emphasize the spread of 
Islam into the interior, by preaching, colonization, or the 
military jihad. They were generally content to practice their 
faith, ply their trades, and interact with the people of the 

interior who were largely non -Muslim. The spread of Islam 
into the interior, and of the Swahili language and culture, did 
not begin until the late eighteenth century, under the impetus 
of Omani Arabs, who made Zanzibar their base. The Omani 
sultans controlled a significant portion of the Swahili region 
in what we could today call Tanzania and Kenya, primarily 
for commercial reasons. They continued to trade in ivory and 
gold, but now added a significant commerce in slaves. Some 
were sent to the Mddle East and South Asia, while others 
were used at the coast to produce cloves and grain for export. 
The Zanzibari system resulted in more active contact be- 
tween coast and hinterland, and the spread of Islam and the 
Swahili culture to the entrepots and towns of the interior. 

These networks laid the basis for the widespread practice 
of Islam in East Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth 
centuries. The main agents of islamization were merchants 
and teachers, not the reform-minded scholars who became so 
prominent in West Africa. The Omanis themselves were 

islam and the Muslim World 

Africa, Islam in 

A mud brick mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, built in the European medieval period. Timbuktu was founded by a nomadic tribe called the Tuareg, 
who only kept loose control of it. Eventually, it became a part of the Muslim empire of Sudan, and functioned as a major trading post that 
connected North Africa with West Africa and thereby facilitated the spread of Islam. © Wolfgang Kaehler/Corbis 

Kharijites, but most of the older Swahili communities as well 
as many of the slaves were Sunni. Relations across these 
doctrinal lines were not difficult. The jihadic tradition re- 
mained a minor theme, except when it came to resistance to 
European domination. 

The "Egyptian" or North African gateway is usually 
emphasized in treatments of islamization in Africa. The 
Saharan region obviously marked the "entrance" to sub- 
Saharan Africa. It was not an obstacle to trading caravans, but 
it was to armies. Indeed, there is only one example — the 
Moroccan expedition of 1591 — of a military force success- 
fully crossing the desert and winning victories on the south- 
ern side. Arabs used the expression sahil or "coast" to apply to 
the two edges of the desert. The Arab and Berber Muslims of 
North Africa established networks of trade on both sides of 
the desert and rhythms of caravan trade that resembled the 
movement of ships along the Indian Ocean coast of East 
Africa. By 1000 it is possible to identify indigenous as well as 
North African Muslim communities in the towns of West 
Africa connected to the trans-saharan trading networks. In 
contrast to the pattern in East Africa, merchant capital 

became very important in the Saharan and sub-Saharan 
interior of West Africa from an early time, and for many 
centuries was the motor force of Islamic practice. 

North Africans often called sub-Saharan Africa the Bilad 
al-Sudan, the "land of the blacks." Geographers and histori- 
ans have used this term and divided it into western, central 
and eastern portions. The eastern or Nile section corre- 
sponds to the modern nation of Sudan, while the western 
portion corresponds to most of the West African Sahel. 

The greatest amount of literature about Islamic practice, 
generated by internal and external observers, deals with the 
West African region. Scholars have used this material to 
create a threefold pattern of islamization. Islam was first a 
minority religion, practiced essentially by traders; it then 
became the practice of Muslim courts; and finally, either by 
processes of military jihad or Sufi orders, or both, it became 
the practice of those living in the rural areas, farmers and 
pastoralists. It was at this point that it became the dominant 
religion, in the last two to three centuries. This formula can 
be useful, if it is applied selectively and discretely to the 

1 6 

islam and the Muslim World 

Africa, Islam in 

different parts of the Sahel and to areas further south in the 

The eastern Sudan or Sahel, what is called the Sudan 
today, is something of an exception to this rule. Adjacent to 
the Nile River, it lay along a natural axis of advance from 
Egypt to the south. Egyptian travelers and armies, whether in 
ancient or Islamic times, had often advanced up the Nile, 
and communities in the region sometimes returned the fa- 
vor. Once the Muslims had established control of Egypt, 
they confronted the Nubian kingdoms that had adopted 
Monophysite or Orthodox forms of Christianity as the state 
religion in earlier centuries. Muslims and Christians then 
worked out a pact, called baqt, by which the weaker Christian 
states paid a small tribute and allowed trade through their 
areas in exchange for noninterference in their affairs. This 
arrangement endured for several centuries. It was endan- 
gered by the limited participation of some Nubian armies in 
the European-led Crusades of the twelfth century, and finally 
ended by the Mamluks in the fifteenth century. After this 
period Arabic became the dominant language of the northern 
Nile valley and the lingua franca of the wider region. 

West African Patterns 

In the western and central Sudan the process was different. 
The early Muslim communities were merchants who lived in 
good relations with and on the sufferance of non-Muslim 
courts. These early Muslims were Arab and Berber but they 
were soon joined by Soninke, Mandinka, and other commu- 
nities of local origin. By the time of the empire of Mali (fl. 
1200-1400), some ruling classes had adopted Islam, although 
not necessarily to the exclusion of local or "ethnic" religious 
practices. Mali in particular is remembered for the pilgrimage 
of Mansa Musa in 1324 and for the visit that Ibn Battuta paid 
to the court of his brother and successor, Mansa Sulayman, in 
1352 and 1353. The court of the Songhay Empire (fl. c. 
1450-1591) is also remembered for adherence to Islam. 
Indeed, Askiya Muhammad (1493-1528) is remembered not 
just for his pilgrimage but also for his discussions with the 
famous jurisconsult al-Maghili and for some serious efforts to 
spread the faith in the Niger Buckle (the area around Timbuktu 
and Gao) in the earlyyears of his reign. The state of Bornu, in 
the area of Lake Chad in the central Sudan, is remembered 
for an early adoption of Islam at the court as well as for its 
longevity (about one thousand years, into the nineteenth 

In the last 250 years Islam has spread much more widely 
throughout northern Africa thanks to Sufi orders and reform 
movements. The oldest order was the Qadiriyya, but its 
network for some time consisted principally of an elite group 
of scholars across the Sudan, the Sahara, and North Africa. A 
Qadiriyya revival and spread in the late eighteenth century 
was followed by rivalry with the Tijaniyya and other orders 
with strong bases in North Africa and the Holy Cities. The 
competition increased in the nineteenth century, all across 

islam and the Muslim World 

this belt, along the Swahili coast, and in the East African 
interior. Sufi practice was not challenged by reform move- 
ments, akin to the Salafiyya or the Wahhabiyya, until the 
mid-twentieth century. 

Indeed, Sufism was the principal vehicle by which Islamic 
practice spread from city to countryside in the Sudan or 
Sahel. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was 
accompanied by reform movements, led by scholars who 
increasingly complained of the lax, mixed, or corrupt practice 
of the faith in the cities, courts, and countryside. Increasingly 
these scholars, usually with Sufi affiliations of their own, 
resorted to the jihad of the sword and led military movements 
to replace the regimes that they criticized. The most success- 
ful of these movements, in terms of its breadth, depth, and 
literary heritage, was the one led by 'Uthman dan Fodio in 
Hausaland in the early nineteenth century. It resulted in the 
Sokoto Caliphate, a regime that dominated most of the 
northern part of Nigeria as well as the southern fringe of 
today's Niger. Many Muslims of northern Nigeria today see 
the caliphate as a kind of social charter for the present day and 
have pushed for the establishment of shari'a (Islamic law). 

The strongest fusion of Sufi identity and militant reform 
came in the mid-nineteenth century with the mobilization led 
by Umar Tal, a scholar and pilgrim whose origins were in 
Senegal. Umar made the pilgrimage to Mecca, was initiated 
into the highest ranks of the Tijaniyya order by a Moroccan 
in Medina, and returned to West Africa in the 1830s to 
pursue a career of teaching and writing. In 1852, however, 
after some campaigns of recruitment, he launched a jihad of 
the sword against the non-Muslim states of the Upper and 
Middle Niger and the Upper Senegal Rivers. He particularly 
targeted the Bambara Kingdom of Segu, which he defeated in 
1 860 and 1861. He also had some encounters with the French 
and an expansive governor named Faidherbe in Senegal, and 
this has given him and his Tijaniyya affiliation an aura of 
resistance to European conquest. At the end of his life Umar 
attacked the Muslim state of Masina or Hamdullahi, princi- 
pally because of their aid for the "pagan" Bambara of Segu. 
This conflict between two Muslim armies and communities, 
both of Pulaar or Fulbe culture, caused great consternation in 
the West African Islamic world. It also led to Umar's death in 
1864 and to the premature limitation of the ambitious move- 
ment that he launched. 

The greatest expansion of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa 
took place in the colonial period, particularly under the 
overrule of the British in Nigeria and the Sudan and the 
French through most of the old western and central Sudan. In 
these instances Islam provided an alternative tradition to the 
secular or Christian identities of the rulers and the mission- 
aries who typically accompanied them. It has often meant 
closer approximation to the styles of dress, architecture, and 
roles of women characteristic of the Middle East. Europeans 
rulers, on the other hand, sought to develop institutions and 

1 7 

Africa, Islam in 

practices for dealing with their Muslim subjects. They co- 
opted portions of the Islamic legal and educational systems, 
tried to control the pilgrimage, and sought to create "colo- 
nial" forms of Islam. The best-known creation was Islam noir, 
the "black Islam," which was supposed to characterize French 
West Africa. The European colonial authorities often styled 
themselves as "Muslim powers" and made comparisons with 
practices in India, Indonesia, and other areas. 

By the time of independence in most sub-Saharan coun- 
tries in the 1960s, Muslim communities had established 
closer ties with the faithful in the Middle East, and particu- 
larly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The centrality of these areas, 
combined with the pilgrimage and institutions such as Al- 
Azhar University, encouraged this process. At the same time 
the Arab Muslim communities made significant human and 
material investments in sub-Saharan Africa. This investment 
stimulated some criticism of Sufi and other African Muslim 
practices, particularly in the Sudan, Nigeria, and adjacent 
areas. In other regions the "Arab" and Saudi influence was 
not as pronounced, and patterns such as the "maraboutic" (a 
synonym for a cleric, derived from the term "almoravid") 
domination of Islam characteristic of Senegal were maintained. 

The Suwarian Pattern 

One of the most intriguing and original creations of Muslims 
in Africa is the Suwarian tradition. This term, coined by the 
historian Ivor Wilks, goes back to a certain Al-Hajj Salim 
Suwari, a learned cleric from the Middle Niger region who 
lived around 1500. The Suwarian tradition expresses the 
rationale used by Muslims who lived as minorities in "pagan" 
regions, particularly the communities of merchants who 
originally left the western Sudan for regions of woodland and 
forest to the south, in search of gold and other items of trade. 
This began in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when 
the Empire of Mali was at its height and sent out colonies of 
traders, juula, who retained their ties with the state, the 
Mandinka language, and their Muslim identity. It continued 
into the twentieth century. 

Juula came to be an ethnic, linguistic, and religious desig- 
nation for these people, who typically lived in demarcated 
neighborhoods within the main commercial towns and or- 
ganized trade between the forest areas of the south and the 
Sahel to the north. They left the realm of "politics" to their 
local hosts. They constituted a Muslim minority within a 
non-Muslim majority, corresponding to the first "phase" of 
islamization mentioned above. They worshiped, educated 
their children, distributed their property, and in almost every 
respect conducted their lives as would Muslims anywhere in 
Africa or the rest of the world. They were no less learned nor 
pious than believers elsewhere, and they did not compromise 
their faith. But they could not afford to, and generally did not 
want to, change the religious identities of their hosts, who 
welcomed their presence and accorded them favors because 

1 8 

of the prosperity they brought through trade. They were not 
about to try transforming the Dar al-kufr in which they lived 
into a Dar al-hlam. 

Over time the juula colonies developed a theological 
rationale for their relations with non-Muslim ruling classes 
and subjects on the basis of the teachings of Suwari. He made 
the pilgrimage to Mecca several times and devoted his intel- 
lectual career to reflection upon the situation of Muslim 
minorities. Drawing upon Middle Eastern jurists and theolo- 
gians, he reformulated the obligations of the faithful. Mus- 
lims must nurture their own learning and piety, and thereby 
furnish good examples to the non-Muslims who lived around 
them. They could accept the jurisdiction of non-Muslim 
authorities, as long as they had the necessary protection and 
conditions to practice the faith. In this position Suwari 
followed a strong predilection in Islamic thought for any 
government, albeit non-Muslim or tyrannical, as opposed to 
none. The military jihad was a resort only if the faithful were 
threatened. In essence, Suwari esteemed that God would 
bring non-Muslims to convert in His own time, and it was not 
the responsibility of the Muslim minorities to decide when 
ignorance or unbelief would give way to faith. 

In practice, of course, the Muslims and non-Muslims did 
not function in isolation. Across the many times and places of 
the woodlands and forest, they were in constant contact with 
each other, and conceived of the relationship as two estates: 
the merchant estate, which was Muslim, and the ruling 
classes, which were "pagan" or at least "ignorant" from the 
standpoint of Islam. But the ruling classes typically esteemed 
the merchants and their religion, and sought the baraka or 
blessing that Muslims might bring to the political realm. This 
esteem was reflected in a number of ways, for example, in the 
demand for amulets produced by clerics for their "pagan" 
hosts. A British traveler in the early nineteenth century, 
Joseph Dupuis, gives an account of this demand in the 
Kingdom of Asante (today's Ghana) in his Journal of a 
Residence in Ashantee: 

The talismanic charms fabricated by the Muslims, it is 
well known, are esteemed efficacious according to the 
various powers they are supposed to possess, and here 
is a source of great emolument, as the article is in public 
demand from the palace to the slave's hut; for every 
man (not by any means exempting the Muslims) wears 
them strung around the neck. . . . Some are accounted 
efficacious for the cure of gunshot wounds, others for 
the thrust or laceration of steel weapons, and the 
poisoned barbs of javelins, or arrows. Some, on the 
other hand, are esteemed to possess the virtue of 
rendering the wearer invulnerable in the field of battle, 
and hence are worn as a preservative against the casual- 
ties of war. 

Besides this class of charms, they have other cabalistic 
scraps for averting the evil of natural life: These may 

islam and the Muslim World 

African Culture and Islam 

also be subdivided into separate classes; some, for 
instance, are specific nostrums in certain diseases of the 
human frame, some for their prevention, and some are 
calculated either to ward off any impending stroke of 
fortune, or to raise the proprietor to wealth, happiness 
and distinction. (London, 1824, 1966, appendix, page xi) 

The relationship between leading merchants and rulers is 
captured well in another passage from the same author, in the 
same kingdom. Merchants, clerics, and rulers were all resi- 
dents of the same city, Kumasi, the capital of Asante. The 
speaker here is the head of the local Muslim community, and 
he talks of his role with the Muslim estate, mainly through 
education, and his ties to the power structure: 

"When I was a young man," said the Bashaw (Pasha), "I 
worked for the good of my body. I traded on the face of 
God's earth, and traveled much. As my beard grew 
strong [I became older] I settled at Salgha [a trading 
center] and lastly removed to this city. I was still but an 
indifferent student [of Islam] when, God be praised, a 
certain teacher from the north was sent to me by a 
special direction, and that learned saint taught me the 
truth. So that now my beard is white, and I cannot 
travel as before, [but] I am content to seek the good of 
my soul in a state of future reward. My avocations at 
Kumasi are several, but my chief employment is a 
school which I have endowed, and which I preside over 
myself. God has compassionated my labors [i.e., made 
them prosper], and I have about 70 pupils and converts 
at this time. 

Besides this, the king's heart is turned towards me, and 
I am a favored servant. Over the Muslims I rule as qadi, 
conformably to our law. I am also a member of the 
king's council in affairs relating to the believers of 
Sarem and Dagomba [areas to the north with signifi- 
cant Muslim populations]." (Dupuis, p. 97) 

The Suwarian tradition was a realistic rationale for Mus- 
lims living in the woodland and forest regions of West Africa 
in the last five or six centuries. It suggests the kinds of 
positions which many Muslims throughout the world have 
taken when they found themselves in situations of inferior 
numbers and force, took advantage of their networks for 
trade, and enjoyed generally good relations with the local 
authorities because of the goods and prosperity that they 
could attract. 

Some Muslims have searched for wisdom and inspira- 
tion within African societies. They have established links 
with indigenous healing practices, divination systems, and 
cosmologies. They have created worlds of mediating spirits 
and possession cults, such as the bori of Hausaland or the 
gnawa of Morocco. These fused religious worlds have come 

islam and the Muslim World 

under increasing criticism in the last two centuries from 
movements of reform and the closer integration of sub- 
Saharan Africa with the Middle East. 

See also Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi; Ahmad Ibn Idris; 
Hajj Salim Suwari, al-; Suyut, al-; Tariqa; Zar. 


Abun-Nasr, Jamil. The Tijaniyya. A Sufi Order in the Modern 
World. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1965. 

Brenner, Louis. West African Sufi. The Religious Heritage and 
Spiritual Search of Cerno Bokar Saalif Tall. London: 
Hurst, 1984. 

Brenner, Louis. Controlling Knowledge. Religion, Power and 
Schooling in a West African Muslim Society. London: 
Hurst, 2001. 

Clarke, Peter. West Africa and Islam. London: Edward 
Arnold, 1982. 

Cooper, Barbara. Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a 
Hausa Society in Niger, 1900-1989. London: Heinemann 
and Currey, 1997. 

Cruise O'Brien, Donal. The Mourides of Senegal. Oxford, 
U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1971. 

Dupuis, Joseph. Journal of a Residence in Ashantee (1824). 
London: Frank Cass, 1966. 

Hiskett, Mervyn. The Development of Islam in West Africa. 
London: Longman, 1984. 

Last, D. Murray. The Sokoto Caliphate. London: Humanities 
Press, 1967. 

Levtzion, Nehemia, and Hopkins, J. F. P. Corpus of Early 
Arabic Sources for West African History. Cambridge, U.K.: 
Cambridge University Press, 1981. 

Levtzion, Nehemia, and Pouwels, Randall, eds. The History of 
Islam in Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000. 

Mazrui, Ali, and Shariff, Ibrahim. The Swahili: Idiom of an 
African People. Trenton, N J.: Africa World History, 1994. 

Robinson, David. The Holy War of Umar Tal. The Western 
Sudan in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Oxford, U.K: Oxford 
University Press, 1985. 

Robinson, David. Paths of Accommodation. Muslim Societies and 
French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 1880 
to 1920. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000. 

David Robinson 


Islam, an Afro-Asiatic faith, has long been known to be a 
religion of great synthesis that has interacted with local 
cultures, enriching them and being enriched by them. It has 
impacted on African society in various ways for almost a 

1 9 

African Culture and Islam 

millennium, if not longer, adding to the fabric of these 

Spread of Islam in Africa 

Islam made its presence felt in much of Africa (the East coast 
and Horn of Africa as well as West Africa) mainly through 
trade and migration. In West Africa, for instance, Islam was 
introduced from North Africa by the Berbers through the 
trans-Saharan trade as early as the ninth century. Later, 
trading networks developed among local African groups such 
as the Mande (Dyula/Wangara) whose area of operation 
spanned a wide area extending from as far west as Senegal to 
northern Nigeria in the east. This trade network, or diaspora, 
was closely associated with the diffusion of Islamic studies, 
including mysticism in the later centuries, and enabled Islam 
to penetrate peacefully beyond the Sahel — the semiarid re- 
gion of African between the Sahara and the savannahs — into 
the savannah area. In the coastal trading communities of East 
Africa the process of interaction between the Middle Eastern 
immigrants, mainly south Arabians, and the dominant Afri- 
can groups created a new urban ethos in which Islam blended 
with the indigenous local culture to produce Swahili Islam. 
The cross-cultural trade in many parts of Africa, apart from 
reinforcing cultural self-identity and nurturing religious com- 
mitment, fostered a pluralist structure in which commerce, 
Islam, and the indigenous system supported the urban net- 
work. In this way a balance was established between local 
ritual prescriptions and those of universal Islam. 

Islam in Africa therefore was primarily an urban religion 
(with an urban ethos) that fostered commitment to its relig- 
ious system ranging from ethnic self-identity to Islamic self- 
identity, universal and transethnic in scope. Islamic penetra- 
tion in the rural areas, on the other hand, made piecemeal 
infiltration over a long period of time with significant gains 
awaiting a much later period. The religion therefore entered 
much of Africa peacefully through the agency of trade and 
later gained status after the migrant community (purveyors of 
the written word and the visual symbols of Islam) was inte- 
grated into the political setup before finally the ruling elite 
embraced the faith and appropriated its symbols for political 

The intensity of Islam varied from one region of Africa to 
another and was influenced by a number of factors, including 
the length of interaction between Islam and the traditional 
religion, the compatibility or incompatibility of the worldviews 
of the two religious systems, and the level of resilience of the 
indigenous integrative symbols to sustain traditional struc- 
tures of the local religion. Islam has its written scripture, a 
prescribed ritual, a historical and systematized myth, and a 
supra-ethnic religious identity. Its interaction with African 
traditional religions is therefore governed by the tension 
between its supra-ethnic universality of its umma and the 
ethnocentrism of African traditional religion. As Dean Gilland 

put it, for the African, the ethnic group is the matrix in which 
his religion takes shape, the meaning of myth communicated, 
and a person's sacramental relation to nature experienced. 
This means that when the symbols of the ethnic group are 
challenged by a new system, recombination of old and new 
forms may appear to reorganize the group and to compensate 
for any loss. More specifically, becoming a Muslim and 
joining this universal umma involves offering prayers in a 
mosque frequented by members of other ethnic groups, 
adoption of Muslim behavior patterns and dress code in some 
cases, and using a certain language (e.g., for quite a long time 
Kiswahili in the case of East Africa). The Kano Chronicle, a 
record of Hausa kings of sixteenth or seventeenth century 
inspiration first written down in the nineteenth century 
whose sources were largely oral, brings out clearly the strug- 
gle between the two religious systems, the Islamic and the 
traditional one, after the symbolic tree is cut down and a 
mosque built in its place. 

Indigenous Culture and Islam 

The old forms and symbols of the indigenous system are 
often not discarded but retrieved and reinforced and recast in 
a new form. In the artistic and architectural domains, for 
instance, there has been a unique blending of Islamic struc- 
ture and African representation. Once a balance had been 
reached between the local religious practices and the univer- 
sal ritual prescriptions of Islam the next step was to cast the 
imagery and iconography of African ancestral pillars, shrines, 
and so on into Islamized form. Where Islam was introduced 
such items as charms, amulets, certain types of clothing, and 
prestige goods were incorporated into local societies. More 
importantly, the local altar-shrine was transformed into the 
mosque in such a way that the physical configuration repre- 
sented a qualitative leap into verticality. Thus, as Labelle 
Prussin notes, the single, towering pyramidal earthen cone 
became the mihrab (it also served as a minaret) with its system 
of projecting wooden pickets extending out of this massive 
structure. The ends of these wooden pickets served as a 
scaffold for workers to climb and repair the walls. The 
ancestral conical structure pillar (the Voltaic tradition) was 
now redirected to a new focal center, that of Mecca. In certain 
cases, as Prussin and Rene Bravmann have observed, some of 
the mosques that were built in Mali had mihrabs that evoked 
the image of an African mask (which traditionally represents 
powerful forces). This is how the mosques were constructed 
by the Mande of West Africa with Islam clearly inspiring the 
use of certain architectural features in the spatial configura- 
tion. The Islamic architectural tradition (mediated through 
the Maghrebian heritage) in turn inspired the architectural 
imagery or style represented by the thatched domes of the 
Senegal-Guinea area for mosques and maraboutic (referring 
to a Muslim scholar or saint in North Africa or parts of West 
Africa) shrines following the example of the domed cities of 
Tripoli and Cairo. Islamic-type designs were also emulated 
and led to the adoption of arabesque wall patterning instead 


islam and the Muslim World 

African Culture and Islam 

A mud brick mosque in Mopti, Mali, in Northwest Africa. Africa is 
home to more than one billion Muslims. © Charles and Josette 

of the attached African charms. This calligraphy allowed for a 
new system of spatial organization. More than this, Islamic 
script was used in decorative ways even in non-Muslim areas 
such as modern-day Ghana, where in the nineteenth century 
the Asantehene, head of the Asante confederacy, wore clothes 
with Arabic writing in various colors. Islam had clearly 
filtered through Asante politicoreligious structure such that 
both in terms of ideas and in the realm of the arts it provided a 
medium through which the ideology of the Asante was 

Islam, which for many centuries coexisted well with tradi- 
tional African religion, gradually over time attempted to 
replace it as the dominant faith of some regions without 
major clashes. What made this possible was the fact that the 
Islamic faith was much more adaptable in Africa with very 
minimal requirements for new members who at the very least 
were expected to change their names after reciting the testi- 
mony of faith. The observance of Islamic duties along with 
the understanding of the faith were supposed to follow later. 
For the first generation of Muslims, introduction to Islamic 
cultural values was what came first whereas Islamization itself 
could take generations to realize. At this level there was 
accommodation to social and political structures of authority. 

This was the period when the learned Muslims, as in West 
African kingdoms, played a key role in administration and 
diplomacy. Eventually, however, a number of these African 
rulers adopted Islam and in doing so may partly have under- 
mined the basis of their legitimacy as guardians of African 
ancestral religious traditions. Nevertheless, they did not 
completely renounce ties with the African traditional relig- 
ion, which continued to be the religion of many of their 
subjects. This arrangement assisted in maintaining order 
although it did not please some West African Sufi leaders of 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who launched their 
jihads (reform movements) of Islamic revivalism (some of 
which had mahdist/messianic overtones) to establish Islamic 
states. The theme of Islamic revivalism will be discussed later. 


Colonialism facilitated the growth of Islam in areas of Africa 
as far apart as Tanzania (Tanganyika) in East Africa and 
Senegal in West Africa through the activities of Muslim 
brotherhoods (Sufi orders), traders, and others. For some 
African groups the loss of power with the onset of colonial 
rule made them gravitate toward Islam, which was seen as an 
alternative to the prevailing colonial order. The difficulties of 
a new life under the colonial system, which uprooted the 
African from his traditional universe, presented Islam with an 
opportunity to provide a new framework as meaningful and 
all-embracing as the old African one. This, for instance, 
happened with Amadou Bamba's Murid brotherhood in 
Senegal, which converted thousands of people whose earthly 
kingdoms had been destroyed by colonialism. In 1 888 Bamba 
established Touba/Tubaa as a great holy city (some say) to 
rival Mecca, and he was buried there in 1927. Every year 
hundreds of thousands of his followers visit his tomb on the 
anniversary of his death. For the uprooted African who joined 
the faith, the Muslim supra-ethnic umma provided a solidar- 
ity and a sense of belonging not very different from that of the 
African village/ethnic one. Moreover, while the Islamic pre- 
scriptions replaced the indigenous ones, in matters of wor- 
ship, however, the Muslim ritual prayer did not completely 
dislodge the traditional rituals of seeking to appease the 
ancestors. In fact, the Muslim religious leaders and teachers 
came to perform the same kind of role as the African healers 
and medicine men in curving out the domain of popular 

Indigenization of Islam 

Yet, despite Muslim efforts to purge African elements from 
their faith, their religion continued to display a level of 
"Africanness" that revealed the indigenization of Islam in 
these regions of West Africa. How else would one explain the 
continued presence of, for instance, the bori cult in northern 
Nigeria? There, women tend to follow the traditional cults 
even with the sustained impact of Islam in Hausaland for 
centuries, including producing such well-known major relig- 
ious Fulani reformers of the nineteenth century such as 

islam and the Muslim World 

2 1 

African Culture and Islam 

Shaykh 'Uthman dan Fodio? There must be a level of affinity 
between the two religious systems that allows this to happen. 
For instance, the belief in mystical powers (/7w»/invisible 
supernatural creatures) allows Islam to be accommodated to 
the African spirit world that is so important to understanding 
the African religious universe. In fact, the ancestral beliefs 
have been recombined with Muslim practice to form a new 
"folk" religion with emphasis on, say, saint veneration (which 
popular Islam and Sufism reinforce) that approximates local 
ancestor veneration. 

The practice of curing illnesses attributed to occult forces 
provided an opportunity for the Muslim healing system to 
flourish and allowed for the services of Muslim healers/holy 
men (who provided additional healing choices to local practi- 
tioners) to be in high demand. The appearance of new 
epidemic diseases such as smallpox and cholera, which arose 
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in hinterland East 
Africa (and which the local people could not adequately deal 
with), led the people to turn increasingly to the Muslim 
healing system. Muslim prayers and amulets were more 
popular than Muslim secular remedies in this atmosphere of 
suspicion (which took the form of sorcery and witchcraft 
accusations). Apart from the fact that Muslim amulets were 
believed to embody the words of the Supreme Being and not 
that of the intermediary powers (making them therefore 
more potent, as the Asante believed), Muslim literacy played 
a role as a potential source of healing. Furthermore, Sufi 
masters who had attained a closeness to God through follow- 
ing the path of spiritual enlightenment were believed to have 
special powers that made their prayers efficacious. This 
baraka (blessing power that heals) was passed on in families 
and explains why the scholarly Sufi lineages of the Sahara 
have played a pivotal role in mediating Islam between North 
and West Africa. 

While the influence of the tariqa (Sufi orders) has been 
undermined to some extent in some parts of Africa such as 
Tanzania, the commitment to Sufistic engagement with faith 
nevertheless continues to be strong in West Africa and 
especially in Senegal, although even there it is facing the 
challenge of the Salafi reformers. Sufism, far from being a 
predominantly rural phenomenon that would fade away as 
Muslim societies became increasingly modernized, has con- 
tinued to thrive and to engage African Muslims of the urban 
centers as well. Yet for some educated young African Muslims 
who are discomfited by magical practices, saint veneration, 
hierarchy, and the authoritarianism of some Sufi orders, the 
Salafi message has seemed attractive. 

The Salafi reform is itself at some level quite conservative 
and traditional; to the extent that this is true, Salafi reform 
and Sufi traditionalism are constantly engaged in an overlap- 
ping movement of interaction. Will they creatively synthe- 
size from the values of their common Islamic heritage while 

acknowledging the entanglements and creative encounters 
between and within cultures? It remains to be seen what the 
outcome of this clash will be. It is clear though that underly- 
ing the conflict between them are struggles for power and 
control of the Muslim community by these competing groups. 

Gender and Islam in Africa 

What type of cultural interface has taken place between Islam 
and Africa in the area of gender relations? More specifically, 
what has been the role of Islam with respect to the status of 
women in the regions of Africa where Islam has been intro- 
duced? Did Islam introduce patriarchy in Africa? Many 
African societies were patriarchal (polygamous as well) even 
before their encounter with Islam. Nevertheless, where Islam 
was introduced and its values incorporated in the socioeco- 
nomic and political structures of these societies (especially 
those with a propensity for state/empire building) a hierar- 
chical social organization resulted in which there were clear 
demarcations of male and female spheres of activity. This, of 
course, did vary from society to society. For instance, the 
Yoruba women of southwestern Nigeria continued to be 
market women even after the coming of Islam whereas their 
Hausa counterparts in northern Nigeria tended to lead more 
secluded lives. It is significant to note that the Mahdiyya 
movement, which was established in 1941 in Ijebul-Ode in 
southern Nigeria by the southern Muslim scholar, Muham- 
mad Jumat Imam, emphasized the education of women, their 
attendance of mosques together with men, and their inclu- 
sion in public affairs (hence no Qur'anic basis for the practice 
of purdah, or female seclusion. Byway of comparison, among 
the Tuareg-Berbers of the Sahara (who tend to be matriar- 
chal) their unveiled women continued to enjoy far more 
freedom of movement than their Arab counterparts in 
North Africa. 

The Sufi dhikr (chant) practices and the spirit possession 
cults (bori among Hausas in West Africa and zar in Ethiopia 
and Sudan) have offered women possibilities for autonomous 
spiritual expression and for creation of networks of mutual 
support. Mysticism in particular has opened the room for the 
acceptance of female authority (for instance, Sokna Magat 
Diop of the Murids) or religious leadership located within the 
female realm. Moreover, the Qadiriyya order accepted the 
female leadership of Shaykha Binti Mtumwa (a former slave 
or person of low status) who founded a branch of the order in 
Malawi and was successful in attracting many women. There- 
fore, both possession cults and Sufi brotherhoods have al- 
lowed women to establish a sphere of action in hierarchical 
societies where control of the state is a male domain. These 
orders have incorporated women in both East and West 
Africa, especially in the area of education, fund raising, and 
the like, although women have a much larger scope in Senegal 
than in Nigeria in leadership of brotherhoods. 

During the period of economic hardships in the last 
several decades, issues of cultural authenticity have become 


islam and the Muslim World 

African Culture and Islam 

rooted in Islamic identity in opposition to what has been 
perceived as Western cultural domination. These women 
reject Western feminism, which they see as an extension of 
Western cultural domination worldwide, a domination that 
makes Western values and ideas be the normative values that 
everyone else should strive for. The role of these women has 
expanded as liberalization of the political process and the 
emergence of multiparty politics have led them to establish 
organizations and to embrace a particular agenda, including 
the Muslim dress code, and involvement in cultural politics. 
The Islamists and radical reformist activists are engaged in 
contesting existing gender relations and social justice. They 
use the text (scripture) as their framework whereas the secular 
activists' frame of reference is based on certain abstract 
concepts such as egalitarianism, humanism, human rights, 
and pluralism, concepts that have emerged from Western 
discourses on the subject. 

The roles of men and women are constantly changing due 
to urbanization, education, and cross-cultural contacts. For 
some women these changes have generated new freedom and 
opportunities for self-improvement. 

Islamic Law and Politics 

As a political force, Islam united much of Africa in the past 
and was willing to accommodate local (including legal) prac- 
tices. Nevertheless, as the level of Islamization deepened the 
learned Muslim scholars began to call for a strict interpreta- 
tion of the shari c a (Islamic law), which they saw as different 
from the African legal or customary practices. Some obvious 
areas of difference included, for instance, Islamic emphasis on 
individual ownership of land (and property inheritance through 
the male side of the family) whereas in various African 
societies land belonged to the community. Also, the way 
Islamic law was interpreted (some have suggested) tended to 
give men considerably more power over property matters 
than perhaps was the case in some African societies. Scholars, 
however, need comparative data across a number of African 
societies to make a meaningful comparison. 

Unlike African customary law, which is unwritten, Islamic 
law (which covers both public and private life) is written and 
provides an extensive framework within which Muslim qadis 
(judges) analyze legal issues and deduce new laws to handle 
new situations in the umma. Islamic law emphasizes the rights 
or obligations of individuals whereas African customary law 
(in which economic and social relations, especially in "state- 
less" societies, were regulated by customs maintained by 
social pressure and the authority of elders) is based on kinship 
ties in matters of marriage and property. It extends to com- 
mercial and criminal law and also has rules regarding the 
conduct of political leaders or those entrusted with authority. 
In their encounter with other legal systems European colo- 
nial powers left these systems functioning in some societies 
(for instance, Sudan and Nigeria as part of the Britain's self- 
serving policy of indirect rule) while in others they allowed 

Muslim judges to apply Islamic civil and family law except in 
criminal matters, which were tried by European courts. In the 
postcolonial period the scope of Islamic law, where it is 
applied, is limited to religious issues and civil cases; the 
modern trend, with its emphasis on equal rights of citizens, is 
to have laws that apply across the board without recognizing 
any distinctions based on religion or gender. 

Recognition of Islamic laws in many African states after 
independence has created tensions and political controversy 
especially when the secular elites have sought to forge a 
uniform system of law or at least have attempted to modify 
Muslim personal law (in aspects such as marriage for girls) to 
bring it in line with the inherited Western law and African 
customary practices. There has been a wide variety of re- 
sponses to the dilemma of how much scope to give to 
religious laws. Mozambique, for instance, has made attempts 
to recognize traditional and religious marriages (thus doing 
the basic minimum) whereas Sudan has made sharp a the law 
of the land. The call by Muslim groups in northern Nigeria 
for nationalization of Islamic law (to apply beyond northern 
Nigeria) has unleashed the shari'a debate, a source of tension 
in national politics in a country where at the very least only 
half or slightly more than half the population is Muslim. In 
African Muslim societies in general, however, it has been 
noted that there is often an antistate discourse underlying the 
call for Islamic law by Muslim groups, which seek to foster 
their religious and cultural autonomy in societies (with failed 
political institutions and secular ideologies such as socialism) 
in which state and secular institutions have failed to respond 
to their needs. 

Coexistence of Islam and African Religion 

The coexistence of Islam and African traditional religion has 
cultural and linguistic implications as well. The Arabic lan- 
guage has provided abstract concepts, particularly religious 
ones, that reveal Islamic modes of thought and expression. 
Islamic influence is, in fact, revealed both at the explicit and 
suggestive levels in languages as different as the Berber 
dialects, Hausa, Swahili, and Somali to name just a few. These 
languages have absorbed the Islamic worldview (though at 
some level languages such as Swahili have been progressively 
secularized over time during and after the colonial period, 
making them more neutral). 

Islamic culture has generally held the written word in such 
high esteem that wherever Islam has reached in Africa ver- 
sions of its script have been adopted in those regions of 
sustained contact. Moreover, Islamic penetration of Africa 
introduced Arabic as the language of religious discourse 
among scholars, official correspondence between Islamized 
states, and historical writing during the period of the Muslim 
kingdoms. Good examples of important records that were 
produced by Timbuktu scholars were the monumental Tarikh 
al-Fatash and Tarikh al-Sudan. Both East and West Africa 

islam and the Muslim World 

2 3 

Aga Khan 

have also produced Afro-Islamic literature (from the panegyrics 
of the Prophet to poetry) based on the local languages, which 
have absorbed a lot of Arabic loanwords in the spheres of 
religion, politics, and commerce. In some of these areas, 
however, the written word has competed with the oral litera- 
ture especially among such clan-based people as the Somali. 

In the linguistic dimension it is often assumed that when 
Arabic and an African language such as Swahili, Berber, 
Hausa, Fulani, Harari, Somali, and others come into contact 
the latter will invariably be influenced by the former. It is, of 
course, undeniable that as a result of contact with Arabic 
these languages (which are related in their ethos to Arabic) 
have absorbed many Arabic loanwords. In fact, some had in 
the past a written tradition in Arabic script. Nevertheless, 
there is an unstated assumption that these languages have 
borrowed from Arabic rather passively without contributing 
anything back. This may explain the fact that while there are a 
number of studies that trace Arabic loanwords in various 
African languages, fewer comparable studies, if any, have 
been undertaken to study, say, the influence of Swahili on the 
Arabic dialects spoken in Oman or south Yemen (Hadhramaut). 
This influence should be expected given that the Red Sea 
separates the Arabian peninsula from Africa and this proxim- 
ity resulted in a profound interaction in a number of spheres. 
The Arabs, by their own tradition, recognize African ancestry 
through IshmaeFs mother Haggar, who was Egyptian. Also, 
Arabs recognize the active presence of Africans in the evolu- 
tion of pre-Islamic Arabic culture and the important role that 
Ethiopia and Ethiopians played in the early history of Islam. 

How will both Islam and African indigenous traditions 
fare in the twenty-first century in the era of globalization? 
Can both systems penetrate Western secular culture, whose 
secular institutions and ideologies have not functioned well in 
Africa? Are African religious traditions destined to die out as 
socioeconomic changes (not to mention the colonial experi- 
ence) have disrupted the cultural nexus in which these tradi- 
tions have thrived? This is rather unlikely as African indigenous 
cultures have demonstrated much resilience even as their 
followers enter the fold of either Islam or Christianity (Ali 
Mazrui's triple heritage) and the African ancestors are poised 
to raise their heads once again in the synthetic and syncretic 
religious universe. With one quarter of the world's 1 .2 billion 
Muslims living in Africa (making Muslims, half the conti- 
nent's population, the most numerous followers of any relig- 
ion) the final chapter of the unfolding global resurgent Islam 
is yet to be written. 

See also Africa, Islam in; Bamba, Ahmad; Timbuktu; 
Touba; Zar. 


Bravmann, Rene A. African Islam. Washington, D.C.: The 
Smithsonian Institution, 1983. 

Chande, Abdin. "Radicalism and Reform in East Africa." 
In The History of Islam in Africa. Edited by Randall Pouwels 
and Nehemia Levitzion. Athens: Ohio University 
Press, 2000. 

Clark, Peter. West Africa and Islam. London: Edward Arnold 
Ltd., 1982. 

Dunbar, Roberta Ann. "Muslim Women in African His- 
tory." In The History of Islam in Africa. Edited by Randall 
Pouwels and Nehemia Levitzion. Athens: Ohio Univer- 
sity Press, 2000. 

Gilland, Dean S. African Religion Meets Islam: Religious Change 
in Northern Nigeria. Lanham, Md.: University Press of 
America, 1986. 

Harrow, Kenneth, ed. Faces of Islam in African Literature. 
Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1991. 

Owusu-Ansah, David. Islamic Talismanic Tradition in Nine- 
teenth Century Asante. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1991. 

Pouwels, Randall, and Levitzion, Nehemia, eds. The History 
of Islam in Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000. 

Pouwels, Randall. Horn and Crescent. Cambridge, U.K.: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1987. 

Prussin, Labelle. Hatumere: Islamic Design in West Africa. 
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California 
Press, 1986. 

Sanneh, Lamin. Piety and Power. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis 
Books, 1996. 

Westerlund, David, and Rosander, Eva Evers, eds. African 
Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters between Sufis and 
Islamists. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1997. 

Ahdin Chande 


Aga Khan is the title inherited by the modern imams of the 
Shi'a Nizari Isma'ili Muslims. The title was first granted by 
the Iranian ruler Fath c Ali Shah to Imam Hasan 'Ali Shah 
(1804—1881), who also served as governor of Qum, Mahallat, 
and Kirman. Forced to leave Iran, he settled eventually in 
British-ruled India. His son, Shah Ali Shah, Aga Khan II 
(1830-1835), was imam for four years and was succeeded 
after his death by his eight-year-old son who became well 
known internationally as Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga 
Khan III (1877-1957). He guided the community into the 
twentieth century by locating social welfare, educational, 
economic, and religious institutions within the framework of 
a structured community constitution to promote better or- 
ganization and governance. His leadership played a crucial 
role in enabling the community, some of whose members had 
migrated from India to Africa, to adapt successfully to histori- 
cal change and modernity. 

In addition to his responsibilities as imam and spiritual 
leader for the welfare of his followers, Aga Khan III played an 


islam and the Muslim World 

Ahl al-Bayt 

Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan, known as Aga Khan III, 
became the leader of the Shi'a Nizari Isma'ili Muslims of India in 
the late nineteenth century at the age of eight. As the Indian 
subcontinent evolved politically in the beginning of the twentieth 
century, Aga Khan spoke out for education, social change, and 
women's rights. Library of Congress, The 

important role as a statesman in international and Muslim 
affairs. He was president of the League of Nations from 1937 
to 1938 and also played an important role in the political 
evolution of the Indian subcontinent. Deeply committed to 
social reform and education among Muslims of Africa and 
Asia he assisted in the creation of several institutions such as 
schools, hospitals, and the East African Muslim Welfare 
Society. He was also an eloquent advocate for the education 
of women and the advancement of their social and public role. 
In addition to other writings and speeches, he wrote two 
books, India in Transition (1918) and his Memoirs (1954). He 
died in 1957 and is buried in Aswan, Egypt. 

Aga Khan IV, Shah Karim al-Husayni, was born in 1936 
and was educated in Europe and at Harvard University. 
During his leadership, a worldwide community emerged 
successfully through complex and turbulent changes. The 
Ismailis, who live in some thirty countries and represent 

cultural and geographical diversity, acknowledge the spiritual 
authority of the imam and have responded actively to his 
guidance. This has enabled them to build further on inherited 
institutions and to create common purpose in their endeavors 
through well-coordinated local, national, and international 

Aga Khan IV also created the Aga Khan Development 
Network, to promote a humanitarian, intellectual, and social 
vision of Islam and tradition of service to society. Its interna- 
tional activities have earned an enviable reputation for their 
commitment to the development of societies, without bias to 
national or religious affiliation, and to the promotion of 
culture as a key resource and enabling factor in human and 
social development. The Award for Architecture and the 
Trust for Culture promote concern and awareness of the 
built environment, and cultural and historical preservation. 
Various institutions of higher education, such as the Aga 
Khan University, Central Asian University, and the Institute 
of Ismaili Studies promote scholarship and training in a wide 
variety of fields. 

The Aga Khan's leadership and vision continue to be 
reflected in the increasingly significant global impact that 
these community institutions and the network are having in 
the fields of social, educational, economic, and cultural 

See also Khojas; Nizari. 

Aziz, K. K., ed. Aga Khan 111: Selected Speeches and Writings. 
London: Kegan Paul International, 1998. 

Daftary, Farhad. The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines. 
Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press, 1990. 

Azim, Nanji 


Ahl al-bayt, or "people of the house," is a phrase used with 
reference to the family of the prophet Muhammad, particu- 
larly by the Shi'a. In early Arabian tribal society, it was a 
designation for a noble clan. It occurs only twice in the 
Qur'an, once in regard to Ibrahim's family (11:73), but more 
significantly in a verse that states, "God only wishes to keep 
uncleaness away from you, O people of the house, and to 
purify you completely" (33:33). The context suggests that this 
statement pertains to women in Muhammad's household, a 
view held by Sunni commentators. Some authorities have 
applied it more widely to descendants of Muhammad's clan 
(Banu Hashim), the Abbasids, and even the whole community 
of Muslims. Since the eighth century c.e., however, the Shi'a 

islam and the Muslim World 


Ahl-e Hadis/Ahl-al Hadith 

and many Sunnis have maintained that Qur'an 33:33 refers 
specifically to five people: Muhammad, c AJi b. Abi Talib 
(Muhammad's cousin), c Ali's wife Fatima (Muhammad's 
daughter), and their two children, Hasan and Husayn. Ulema 
invoke hadiths in support of this view, as seen in Tabari's 
Jami c al-bayan (c. tenth century c.e.). Thus, in South Asia, 
they are called "the five pure ones" (panjatan pak). They are 
also known as "people of the mantle" {kisa') in remembrance 
of the occasion when the Prophet enveloped them with his 
mantle and recited this verse. 

Belief in the supermundane qualities of the ahl al-bayt and 
the imams descended from them form the core of Shi'ite 
devotion. They are the ideal locus of authority and salvation 
in all things, both worldly and spiritual. As pure, sinless, and 
embodiments of divine wisdom, they are held to be the 
perfect leaders for the Muslim community, as well as models 
for moral action. Many believe that they possess a divine light 
through which God created the universe, and that it is only 
through their living presence that the world exists. Twelver 
Shi'ite doctrine has emphasized that the pain and martyrdom 
endured by ahl al-bayt, particularly by Husayn, hold redemp- 
tive power for those who have faith in them and empathize 
with their suffering. Moreover, they anticipate the messianic 
return of the Twelfth Imam at the end of time, and the 
intercession of the holy family on the day of judgment. 
During the middle ages, Nizari Isama'ili da'is in northern 
India even identified the ahl al-bayt with Hindu gods (Brahma, 
Vishnu, Kalki, Shiva, and the goddess Shakti) and the Pandavas, 
the five heroes of the Mahabharata epic. The Shi c ite ritual 
calendar is distinguished by holidays commemorating events 
in the lives of the holy family, and it is common for the "hand 
of Fatima," inscribed with their five names, to be displayed in 
processions and to be used as a talisman. 

Sunnis also revere the ahl al-bayt, attributing to them 
many of the sacred qualities that the Shi c a do. This is 
especially so in Sufi tariqas (brotherhoods), most of which 
trace their spiritual lineage to Muhammad through c Ali. 
Several tariqas hold special veneration for the holy five and 
the imams, such as the Khalwatiyya, the Bektashiyya, and the 
Safawiyya, which established the Safavid dynasty in Iran 
(1502-1722). In many Muslim communities, high social 
status is attributed to those claiming to be sayyids and sharifs, 
blood-descendants of the ahl al-bayt. Indeed, many Muslim 
scholars and saints are members of these two groups, and 
their tombs often become pilgrimage centers. 

Although the Saudi-Wahhabi conquest of Arabia (nine- 
teenth to early twentieth centuries) led to the destruction of 
many ahl al-bayt shrines (including Fatima's tomb in Medina), 
elsewhere their shrines have attracted large numbers of pil- 
grims in modern times. These include those of c Ali (Najaf, 
Iraq), Husayn (Karbala, Iraq and Cairo, Egypt), c Ali al-Rida 
(the eighth imam; Mashhad, Iran), and also of women saints 

such as Sayyida Zaynab ('Ali's daughter; Cairo) and Fatima 
al-Ma'suma (daughter of the seventh imam; Qom, Iran). 
Nizari Isma c ilis (Khojas) make pilgrimages to their living 
imam, the Aga Khan, also a direct descendent of the Prophet's 

Contemporary heads of state in several Muslim countries 
have claimed blood-descent from the family of the Prophet to 
obtain religious legitimacy for their rule: the 'Alawid dynasty 
of Morocco (163 1-present), Hashimite dynasty of Iraq 
(1921-1958) and of Jordan (1923-present), and many of the 
ruling mullahs in Iran, including the Ayatollah Khomeini (r. 
1979-1989), whose tomb has become a popular Iranian 
Shi'ite shrine. Even former President Saddam Husayn of Iraq 
(r. 1979-2003) has claimed descent from ahl al-bayt. 

See also Hadith; Imam; Imamate; Karbala; Mahdi; Sayyid; 
Sharif; Shi c a: Imami (Twelver); Shi c a: Isma c ili. 


Ayoub, Mahmoud. Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of 
the Devotional Aspects of Ashura in Twelver Shi'ism. The 
Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1978. 

Hoffman-Ladd, Valerie J. "Devotion to the Prophet and His 
Family in Egyptian Sufism." International Journal of Mid- 
dle East Studies 24 (1992): 615-637. 

Schubel, Vernon James. Religious Performance in Contempo- 
rary Islam: Shi'i Devotional Rituals in South Asia. Columbia: 
University of South Carolina Press, 1993. 

Juan Eduardo Campo 


The Ahl-e Hadis emerged as a distinctive orientation among 
Indian ulema in the late-nineteenth-century milieu of re- 
formist thought, publication, debate, and internal proselytiz- 
ing. Like other reformers, they fostered devotion to the 
prophet Muhammad and fidelity to sharp a. Unlike them, they 
opposed jurisprudential taqlid (imitation) of the classic law 
schools in favor of direct use of hadith. They also opposed the 
entire institution of Sufism, a stance that further marginalized 
them. Like the Deobandis, they claimed to be heirs of Shah 
Wali Allah (d. 1763), and they encouraged simplification of 
ceremony and the practice of widow remarriage. Their prac- 
tices in the canonical prayer (including uttering "amen" aloud 
and lifting their hands at the time of bowing) led to conflicts 
ultimately settled in British courts. 

Core supporters of the Ahl-e Hadis came from educated 
and often well-born backgrounds. Cosmopolitan in orienta- 
tion, they identified themselves with similar groups in Afghani- 
stan and Arabia. Within India, they turned to princes for 


islam and the Muslim World 

Ahl al-Kitab 

support, most famously with the marriage of Maulana Siddiq 
Hasan Khan (1832-1890) to the ruling Begum of Bhopal. 
Siddiq Hasan supported the classic interpretations of jihad, 
without the apologetic glosses of the day. Despite his writing 
to the contrary, he was suspected of disloyalty, as was another 
major figure in the movement, Sayyid Nazir Husain (d. 
1902), who was briefly arrested as a "Wahhabi," as supporters 
of the Arab Muhammad Abd al Wahhab (1703-1792) were 
called. Suspicion of the Ahl-e Hadis abated by 1889, marked 
by the success of a campaign to drop the word "Wahhabi" in 
official British colonial correspondence. 

The armed Lashkar-e Tayyiba, affiliated with the Ahl-e 
Hadis in Pakistan, is alleged to have been active both within 
Pakistan and Kashmir since the 1990s. 

See also Deoband; Fundamentalism. 

Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband 
1860-1900. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University 
Press, 1982. 

Saeedullah. The Life and Works of Muhammad Siddiq Hasan 
Khan, Nawivab of Bhopal. Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muham- 
mad Ashraf, 1973. 

Barbara D. Metcalf 


The Ahl al-Hadith (people of the traditions) appear to have 
developed out of a pious reaction to the assassination of 
Caliph Yazid b. Walid (d. 744). Prior to Yazid's assassination, 
scholars who emphasized hadith (traditions of the prophet 
Muhammad) as the primary source for interpreting the Will 
of God were disorganized and fairly removed from the 
widespread emphasis on applying varying levels of reason to 
the Qur'an. Yazid's assassination was interpreted by more 
conservative groups as a revolution against the predestined 
plan of God. Whether or not the early Ahl al-Hadith were 
aligned with the Umayyad caliphate, as were many of the 
Jabriyya (advocates of predestination), it is clear that many 
understood Yazid's assassination as a sign of the general decay 
of the Muslim community, the blame for which they assigned 
to the uncontrolled use of personal opinion by the Ahl al-Ra'y 
(people of considered opinion). After the Abbasid revolution 
(c. 720-750), the Ahl al-Hadith developed into the main 
group opposed to the dominance of the rationalist theology 
of the Mu'tazilites. During the religious inquisition orMihna 
(833-850) many of the Ahl al-Hadith were imprisoned for 
refusing to agree to the doctrine of the Created Qur'an. 
Members of the Ahl al-Hadith, such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d. 
855), became important religious and social leaders due to 

their refusal to recant their beliefs in the eternal nature of the 
Qur'an. After the Mihna, the Ahl al-Hadith led an anti- 
rationalist movement that forced advocates of rationalist 
thought underground. In the centuries following the initial 
triumph of the Ahl al-Hadith, a middle ground emerged that 
placed greater emphasis on a combination of reason and 
tradition. The Ahl al-Hadith formed a school of legal thought 
named after Ahmad Ibn Hanbal that continued to pursue 
legal methods that focused less on uses of reason and more on 
tradition. The Hanbali fixation on tradition led to a series of 
reform movements that have sought to "revive" the moral 
and ethical standards of the first generations of Muslims. The 
contemporary influence of Ahl al-Hadith ideology continues 
to be important for a number of diverse groups. Organiza- 
tions such as the Indonesian Muhammadiyah and the Islamic 
Society of North America, as well as the violent al-Qa'ida and 
Islamic Jihad, each bases its ideologies on ideas that emerged 
out of the Ahl al-Hadith and Hanbali movement over the last 
eight centuries. 

See also Ibn Hanbal; Kalam; Mu c tazilites, Mu c tazila; 


Hallaq, Wael. A History of Islamic Law and Legal Theories. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 

Schacht, Joseph. The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. 
Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1950. 

R. Kevin Jaques 


The term ahl al-kitab, or people of the book, refers to 
followers of scripture-possessing religions that predate the 
Qur'an, most often Jews and Christians. In some situations 
other religious groups, such as Zoroastrians and Hindus, have 
been considered to be people of the book. Some Qur'anic 
verses also reference the Sabeans, who are usually understood 
to be one of several gnostic Judeo-Christian sects such as the 
Mandeans, the Elchasaites, or Archontics. Muslims recog- 
nize the holy books possessed by the Jews (al-Tawrah: Torah; 
al-Zabur: Psalms) and Christians (al-Injil: Gospel) as legiti- 
mate revelations. However, they believe that some portions 
of these scriptures were abrogated and superceded by the 
Qur'an and the Christians and Jews corrupted others. 

The Qur'an provides an ambivalent picture of the people 
of the book, sometimes praising and sometimes condemning 
them. Muslims are said to worship the same God as the 
people of the book, who were likewise honored with divine 
revelations (Q 2:62). However, the people of the book are 
also criticized for certain faults and sometimes referred to as 

islam and the Muslim World 

2 7 

Ahl al-Kitab 

unbelievers (Q 5:18, 9:29-35). These differences in tone 
seem to be connected with the circumstances in which Qur'anic 
revelations were delivered. In Mecca the Prophet's message 
was directed against the idolaters who opposed him, and 
Muhammad believed that the Jews and Christians, as fellow 
monotheists, would recognize him as a prophet. After his 
arrival in Medina, however, it became apparent that most 
Jews and Christians were not going to submit to Islam. As a 
result, the Meccan suras generally express more favorable 
opinions of the people of the book, and the Medinan suras 
more negative images. 

Despite recognizing the privileged place of the Jews as 
having received multiple prophets, the Qur'an criticizes them 
for resisting God and corrupting or hiding his Scriptures (Q 
2:75, 3:78, 4:46f, 5:13, 5:41). They are also charged with 
teaching falsehoods (Q 2:78, 3:79), and with immoral prac- 
tices such as greed, theft, idolatry, persecuting the prophets, 
charging interest, and failing to honor the Sabbath (Q 2:49-61, 
65, 3:75, 4:153-156, 160-161, 5:56-64, 7:163-166). Because 
of their sins, the Qur'an asserts that God cursed the Jews (Q 
5:13). Those Jews who did not submit to Islam faced the same 
eternal punishment as polytheists and other unbelievers 

Christians are generally portrayed sympathetically in the 
early suras. They are described as being the closest friends to 
Muslims, while Jews and idolaters are said to be hostile to 
Islam (Q 5:82). However, the Qur'an disagrees with Chris- 
tians over several doctrinal issues. Although the Muslim holy 
book recognizes Jesus' prophethood (Q 3:45-53), it denies 
that he was divine or was crucified (Q 4:15 7- 158, 5:116-117). 
It also rejects the Christians' doctrine of the Trinity and their 
teaching that Jesus was the Son of God (Q 4: 1 7 1-1 72 , 1 9: 3 5), 
accusing proponents of these doctrines of being unbelievers, 
in danger of hellfire (Q 5:76f). As with the Jews, Christians 
are also charged with distorting the Scriptures. 

Muslim representations of ahl al-kitab in hadith and early 
juristic literature demonstrate an increased familiarity with 
Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices, because the people 
of the book initially represented the majority population in 
the expanded Muslim empire. On the whole, this literature 
presents ahl al-kitab in a negative light. Many hadiths seem 
concerned about their undue influence and warn Muslims not 
to imitate them. Hadith literature also lays the groundwork 
for the practice of assigning protected status (known as 
dhimmi status) to people of the book who submitted to 
Muslim political authority. This arrangement made it possi- 
ble for Jews and Christians to practice their faiths while living 
in Muslim societies. Although treated as second-class citi- 
zens, non-Muslim communities were largely able to coexist 
peacefully with Muslims for centuries, without experiencing 
the active persecution that minority religious groups often 
encountered in Europe. 

Islamic literature from the eleventh through eighteenth 
centuries generally deals with ahl al-kitab within the context 
of their dhimmi status. Although dhimmis were understood to 
be inferior to Muslims, some Jews and Christians managed to 
attain high positions in Islamic states. A few, such as John of 
Damascus (d. c. 748), even engaged in theological discussions 
with Muslims. Islamic polemical literature associated with 
scholars such as Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064), Ibn al- 
c Arabi (d. 1148), and al-Ghazali (d. 1111) repeated earlier 
criticisms of Jews and Christians, posited different theories to 
explain the corruption of their scriptures, and assigned blame 
for this calamity to well-known figures such as the Old 
Testament prophet Ezra, the Christian apostle Paul, and the 
Byzantine emperor Constantine. The people of the book 
were also accused of concealing biblical prophecies foretell- 
ing the coming of Muhammad and the triumph of Islam. Sufi 
works, such as the poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi, look to Jesus 
and other biblical saints as models but contain similar criti- 
cisms of Jews and Christians. All these texts reflect a belief in 
Muhammad as the bearer of God's crowning revelation, 
supplanting the partial revelations of the biblical Scriptures. 

During modern times, substantial changes in the relation- 
ship between the Islamic world and the West led to shifts in 
Muslim attitudes toward the people of the book. From the 
early 1800s, Islamic modernists acknowledged that Muslims 
could learn some things from the "Christian" West, but they 
continued to assert Islam's superiority as a religious system. 
Colonizing European states attempted to impose Western 
values upon Islamic populations, but westernizing Muslim 
governments failed to achieve the promised prosperity. With 
the breakdown of the dhimmi system and the rise of national- 
ism, ethnic and religious violence has erupted throughout the 
Muslim world. This is most noticeable in the region of 
Palestine, where many Muslims see the establishment of 
Israel as a Western colonial project. During the late twentieth 
century, Islamic revivalists (or "Islamists") increased their 
influence and largely rejected the "compromises" of the 
modernists. The Islamists advocate a return to the glorious 
Islamic civilization of the past, with its division of the world 
into daral-islam and daral-harb ("house of war"; i.e., that part 
of the world not ruled by Islamic government) and returning 
non-Muslim minorities to their former dhimmi status. 

See also Christianity and Islam; Islam and Other Relig- 
ions; Judaism and Islam; Minorities: Dhimmis. 


Busse, Heribert. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: Theological 
and Historical Affiliations. Translated by Allison Brown. 
Princeton, N.J.: Markus Weiner Publishers, 1998. 

Goddard, Hugh. Muslim Perceptions of Christianity. London: 
Grey Seal, 1996. 

Lazarus-Yafeh, Hava. Intertwined Worlds: Medieval Islam and 
Bible Criticism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University 
Press, 1992. 


islam and the Muslim World 

Ahmad Ibn Idris 

Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton 
University Press, 1984. 

Ridgeon, Lloyd, ed. Islamic Interpretations of Christianity. New 
York: St. Martin's Press, 2001. 

Watt, William Montgomery. Muslim-Christian Encounters: 
Perceptions and Misperceptions. London: Routledge, 1991. 

Stephen Cory 



Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Ghazi is known in Ethiopian Christian 
literature as Ahmad Gran, "the left-handed," political leader 
of an Islamic jihad movement in sixteenth-century Ethiopia. 
He rose to power in the context of a century-old struggle for 
domination in Ethiopia between the Christian emperors who 
reigned in Ethiopia's central and northern highlands and the 
rulers of a number of Muslim emirates in that region's eastern 
high- and lowlands. In the 1510s and 1520s, the emperor 
Libna Dingil (r. 1508-1540) had managed to overcome the 
resistance of the Amir of Adal, Garad Abun, as well as of Iman 
Mahfuz, the Amir of Zaila. 

Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Ghazi grew up in the province of 
Hubat south of Adal's capital city of Harar and had married 
Bati Del Wanbara, a daughter of Imam Mahfuz. In the 
desperate situation of 1527, he was able to unite, under his 
leadership a number of Somali war bands as well as the forces 
of the Muslim emirates to defeat an Ethiopian army. With 
the support of Ottoman artillery, al-Ghazi's army was subse- 
quently able, in 1529, to inflict a crushing defeat upon 
Ethiopia's united army. Thereupon, he decided to embark on 
a jihad with the aim to conquer Ethiopia as a whole. 

Al-Ghazi led a number of campaigns, recorded by his 
companion, the Yemenite scholar Shihab al-Din Ahmad b. 
c Abd al-Qadir, under the title Kitab Futuhat al-Habasha al- 
Musamma Bahjat az-Zaman. Al-Ghazi's Muslim armies were 
able to conquer, between 1529 and 1535, almost all the 
Ethiopian Christian territories, from Showa in the south to 
Tigray in the north. Ethiopia's transformation into a Muslim 
imamate was, however, preempted by the intervention of 
the Portuguese in 1541. Also, Ethiopia's new emperor, 
Galawdewos (r. 1540-1559), managed to reorganize the 
Christian forces and to stop al-Ghazi's advance. 

In a battle near Woyna Dega, in Dembya province, al- 
Ghazi was killed by a Portuguese fusilier. The Muslim empire 
of Ethiopia subsequently disintegrated as quickly as it had 
been conquered, and most Christians who had converted to 
Islam after 1529 converted back to Ethiopian Christianity. In 
the aftermath of al-Ghazi's death, Emperor Galawdewos was 

able to advance as far as Harar, where he was stopped in 1559 
by Imam Nur b. al-Mujahid, al-Ghazi's nephew and succes- 
sor. Al-Mujahid ruled Adal-Harar until his death in 1568. 

See also Africa, Islam in; Ethiopia; Jihad. 

Abir, Mordechai. Ethiopia and the Red Sea: The Rise and Decline 
of the Solomonic Dynasty and Muslim-European Rivalry in the 
Region. London: Frank Cass, 1980. 

Roman Loimeier 

AHMAD IBN IDRIS (1750-1837) 

Ahmad b. Idris was a Sufi teacher who influenced the forma- 
tion of many reforming Sufi brotherhoods in the nineteenth 

Although he never formed tariqa (brotherhood) of his 
own, Ibn Idris was a key figure in the development of Sufi 
thought in the nineteenth century. Being firmly based in 
traditional Sufism, in the line from Ibn 'Arabi, Ibn Idris 
promoted the idea of tariqa Muhammadiyya — focusing the 
Sufi experience on following the example of and having 
mystical encounters with the Prophet — while vehemently 
rejecting blind imitation itaqlid) of earlier scholars. Accord- 
ing to his teaching, it is the responsibility of each generation 
of Muslim scholars to discover the Muslim path by relying 
directly on the sources of divine revelation and not be 
restricted to what earlier and fallible human authorities have 

Ibn Idris was born in Maysur, a village near Larache in 
Morocco, and received his basic training in the reformist 
scholarly milieu in Fez of the late eighteenth century, before 
moving through Egypt to Mecca in 1 799. He stayed in Mecca 
during the Wahhabi occupation, unlike many colleagues, and 
had an ambivalent relationship to the Wahhabis; he shared 
some of their reformist views but rejected their recourse to 
anathema and violence against other Muslims. After a later 
disturbance in Mecca, he left in 1 82 8 and settled in Sabya, the 
capital of c Asir, then a part of Yemen, where he stayed for the 
remainder of his life. Several of his students formed impor- 
tant Sufi brotherhoods to disseminate his ideas, among them 
the Sanusiyya of the Sahara, the Khatmiyya and Rashidiyya/ 
Dandarawiyya of Sudan, Egypt, and the Indian Ocean re- 
gions, and the Salihiyya of Somalia. 

See also Africa, Islam in; Tariqa; Tasawwuf; Wahhabiyya. 

O'Fahey, Rex S. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad Ibn Idris and the 
Idrisi Tradition. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University 
Press, 1990. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Ahmad Gran 

Radtke, Bernd; O'Kane, John; Vikor, Knut S.; and O'Fahey, 
Rex S. The Exoteric Ahmad Ibn Idris: A Sufi's Critique of the 
Madhahib and Wahhabis. Leiden: Brill, 2000. 

Thomassen, Einar, and Radtke, Bernd, eds. The Letters of 
Ahmad Ibn Idris. London: Hurst, 1993. 

Knut S. Viker 

AHMAD GRAN See Ahmad Ibn 
Ibrahim al-Ghazi 


The Ahmadiyya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam 
Ahmad in the Punjab province of British India in 1889, at a 
time of competition for converts among new Muslim, Hindu, 
Sikh, and Christian reform and missionary movements. Divi- 
sions among Sunni Muslims on appropriate responses fol- 
lowing the failure in 1857 of a widespread rebellion against 
the British were reflected in the growth of new religious 
movements in the north west, particularly at Deoband and 
Aligarh. Ghulam Ahmad's claims to be the recipient of 
esoteric spiritual knowledge, transmitted to him through 
visions, attracted attention in such a setting. Doctrinally, he 
aroused hostility among Sunnis mainly because of his own 
claim to prophethood. His definition of jihad as concerned 
with "cleansing of souls," rather than with military struggle, 
was less controversial at a stage when most Muslims had 
accepted the practical necessity of acquiesence to British rule. 
Some have viewed the insights that drew disciples to him as 
sufistic in essence, though his denunciation of rivals caused 
detractors to question the spirituality of the movement. 

In 1889, shortly after publishing his first book Al-Barahin 
al-Ahmadiyya (Ahmadiyya proofs; 4 vols, 1880-1884), Ghulam 
Ahmad began to initiate disciples. His claims two years later 
that he was both masih (messiah) and mahdi (rightly guided 
one), and subsequent claims to powers of prophethood, 
caused outrage among Muslims, which was expressed in 
tracts and newspapers and in fatawa condemning him for 
denying the doctrine of khatm al-nabwwwa (finality of Muham- 
mad's prophethood). Public controversies also marked rela- 
tions with his non-Muslim rivals, notably the Arya Samaj 
Hindu revivalist leaders with whom he clashed frequently, 
especially after he claimed to be an avatar of Krisna, and with 
Protestant Christian missionaries in the Punjab. Christians 
objected to his view that Jesus had died naturally in Kashmir, 
and that Ghulam Ahmad was the promised "second messiah." 
He cultivated good relations, however, with the British colo- 
nial authorities who appreciated his advocacy of loyalty to the 

Raj. Although his personal dynamism, including the fear he 
inspired through the issuing of death prophecies, was respon- 
sible for his notoriety among his Punjab enemies, it also drew 
many initiates, mainly from Sunni Islam. On his death, a 
disciple, Maulvi Nur al-Din, became his khalifa (successor; 

The movement took stronger institutional form on 27 
December 1891, when Ghulam Ahmad called the first annual 
gathering at Qadiyan, subsequently the center for all Ahmadi 
activities. Newspapers were soon established, including Al- 
Hakam (1897) and The Review of Religions (1902). Directed by 
Ghulam Ahmad that Ahmadis should demand separate cate- 
gorization from Sunnis in the 1901 census, and that non- 
Ahmadi Muslims were kafirs (unbelievers), that intensified 
Sunni hostility. The community nevertheless prospered. 
Although scorned for their allegedly low social origins, many 
Ahmadis were of middle-class professional status (landown- 
ers, entrepreneurs, doctors, and lawyers). Those of lower 
origins took advantage of opportunities offered within the 
community to raise their educational level and hence status. 
Many Ahmadi women were well educated. Numbers rose to 
approximately nineteen thousand in Punjab by 191 1, rising to 
about twenty-nine thousand by 1921. Careful marriage ar- 
rangements, as well as missionary activity, helped increase the 
membership, which then spread outside India, particularly in 
Africa and Southeast Asia, through well-organized overseas 
missionary programs. 

A split in 1914 divided the movement in the Punjab but 
did not obstruct progress, for those who remained at Qadiyan, 
and the new, Lahore-based, secessionary branch, continued 
to use similar missionary and disciplinary methods to consoli- 
date their communities. Differing mainly on understandings 
of Ghulam Ahmad's status, the Qadiyanis retained the caliphal 
leadership, whose incumbents (since 1914 the sons and grand- 
sons of Ghulam Ahmad) have reinforced belief in the founder's 
prophetic claims. The Lahoris, organized as the Ahmadiyya 
Anjuman-e Isha 'at-e Islam, regarded Ghulam Ahmad as the 
"mujaddid [reformer] of the fourteenth century," and are less 
easily distinguishable from Sunni Muslims, except in holding 
Ghulam Ahmad to have been the "promised messiah." The 
crucial difference over prophethood has maintained the sepa- 
rate identities of the branches wherever Ahmadiyya has since 
spread, although missionary work among non-Muslims, es- 
pecially overseas, tends to stress common ground in Islam. 
While Ghulam Ahmad's direct successors, notably his son, 
the second caliph, Bashir al-Din Mahmud Ahmad, together 
with Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, have contributed the 
most influential publications to Qadiyani proselytism, the 
Lahoris received notable intellectual and missionary leader- 
ship from Maulana Muhammad c Ali in the Punjab, and 
Khwaja Kamal al-Din in London. 

During the period of overt nationalist struggle in India in 
the 1920s and 1930s some Lahoris began to support wider 

3 0 

islam and the Muslim World 


Members of the Muslim Ahmadiyya group, including their leader, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Khalifatul Masih IV, left, begin the Initiation 
ceremony at an international Ahmadiyya convention in Germany in 2001 . In the late nineteenth century, Ahmadiyya's founder, Mirza Ghulam 
Ahmad, started this branch of Islam after claiming to be a prophet who received spiritual visions. AP/Wide World Photos 

Indian-Muslim agendas. Even though Zafrullah Khan was 
made president of the Muslim League conference in 1931, 
most Qadiyanis maintained their strong pro-British stance 
while clashing verbally and violently with some militant 
Sunni movements, notably the Ahrars. Yet both groups' 
generally loyal stance ensured them considerable practical 
protection against possible recriminations from Muslims 
while colonial rule lasted. 

Independence and Partition brought new problems for 
both groups. When the Gurdaspur district was allotted to 
India many Qadiyanis migrated to Pakistan, where they 
established a new headquarters at Rabwa. Pakistan has not 
proved congenial to the interests of either branch, although 
Zafrullah Khan was made Pakistan foreign minister and 
others initially gained important posts in the civil service, 
army, and air force. Latent antagonism escalated during the 
constitution-making controversies of the late 1940s, coming 
to a head in 1953 when anti-Ahmadiyya riots, encouraged by 
ulema seeking the constitutional declaration of Ahmadis as 
non-Muslims, resulted in many deaths. Although the govern- 
ment fell and a judicial inquiry condemned the attacks, 

continual pressure on the community culminated in the 
National Assembly's declaration of the Ahmadis as non- 
Muslim in 1974. The military rule of Zia ul-Haq, which 
favored Islamization policies on a narrowly Sunni basis, 
proved disadvantageous to all minorities: His Ordinance XX 
of April 1984 prohibited Ahmadis from calling themselves 
Muslim. Subsequent prohibitions, notably on publishing, 
and on calling their places of worship mosques, have severely 
restricted Ahmadi religious life in Pakistan. The head of the 
Rabwa community, the fourth khalifa, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 
migrated to London in the mid-1980s, after which many 
South Asian Ahmadis have settled outside the subcontinent, 
thereby strengthening the generally economically prosper- 
ous Ahmadi missionary communities, belonging to both 
branches, which were already established in many parts of 
Africa, in Fiji, and in Southeast Asia, as well as in North 
America and Europe. Although both branches report growth, 
there are no reliable statistics on numbers and distribution. 
Both branches continue to publish prolifically, but there has 
been little scholarly evaluation of academic and institutional 
developments, most accounts using the general term Ahmadi 
to describe both branches. 

isfam and the Muslim World 

3 1 

Ahmad Khan, Sayyid 

See also Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam; Pakistan, Islamic 
Republic of; South Asia, Islam in. 


Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam. Islami usul kifilasafi, (1896). 
Translated by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan as The Philoso- 
phy of the Teachings of Islam. Tilford, Surrey, U.K.: Islam 
International Publications Ltd., 1996. 

Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi 
Religious Thought and its Medieval Background. Berkeley, 
Los Angeles, and London: University of California 
Press, 1989. 

Jones, Kenneth W. Socio-Religious Reform Movements in Brit- 
ish India. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University 
Press, 1989. 

Khan, Sir Muhammad Zafrullah. Ahmadiyyat: The Renaissance 
of Islam,. London: Tabshir Publications, 1978. 

Lavan, Spencer. The Ahmadiyah Movement: A Histoty and 
Perspective. Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1974. 

AvrilA. Powell 


Sayyid Ahmad Khan was an educational and political leader 
of Muslims who were living under British rule in India. He 
developed concepts of religious modernism and community 
identity that mark the transition from Mogul India to the 
rise of representative government and the quest for self- 
determination. Born and educated in Delhi in the surviving 
remnant of the Mogul regime, Sayyid Ahmad embarked on a 
career in the British subordinate judicial service, the lower- 
level law courts where Indian judges presided and cases were 
conducted in Indian languages, and was posted in a series of 
north Indian towns and cities. During these years he pub- 
lished historical and religious texts and was one of the 
pioneers of the printing of Urdu prose. He remained loyal to 
the British during the 1857 revolt, and worked to reconcile 
Indian, Muslim, and British institutions and ideologies. In 
1864, he founded the Scientific Society in Ghazipur (shifted 
the following year to Aligarh), which was devoted to translat- 
ing practical and scientific works into Urdu. In 1869, he 
traveled to England to write a defense of the life of the 
Prophet and to examine British educational institutions. 
While in England, he conceived the idea of founding a 
residential college primarily for Muslims and devoted the rest 
of his life to the cause of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental 
College, Aligarh, which was founded in 1875. During this 
period, he became a prolific writer on religious, social, and 
political issues. In 1887, he announced his opposition to the 
Indian National Congress on the grounds that representative 
government was not in the best interests of Muslims. Knighted 
by the British in 1888, he left a legacy of political separatism 

that future generations transformed into a movement for the 
creation of Pakistan as a separate state for South Asian 

See also Aligarh; Education; Liberalism, Islamic; Mod- 
ernism; Modern Thought; Pakistan, Islamic Republic 
of; South Asia, Islam in; Urdu Language, Literature, 
and Poetry. 


Lelyveld, David. Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity 
in British India. 2d ed. New Delhi: Oxford University 
Press, 1996. 

Troll, Christian W. Sayyid Ahmad Khan: A Reinterpretation of 
Muslim Theology. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1978. 

David Lelyveld 

(LATE 1830s-1908) 

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born into a landowning Sunni 
family at Qadiyan in Gurdaspur district, Punjab, northwest 
India. He initiated disciples into his Ahmadiyya movement in 
1889, after announcing that messages received in visions 
designated him the mujaddid (renewer of Islam) for the age. 
He also claimed to be the masih-i maw'ud (promised Mes- 
siah), and the mahdi (rightly guided one), and to have powers 
of miracle and prophecy. Most Sunni Muslims deemed such 
a denial of khatm al-nubuwiva (finality of Muhammad's 
prophethood) heretical, but his movement grew to nearly 
twenty thousand adherents in his lifetime. He was succeeded 
in 1908 by the first khalifa of the Ahmadiyya movement, 
Maulawi Nur al-Din. 

See also Ahmadiyya. 

Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam. Islami usul kifilasafi. (1896). 
Translated by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan as The Philoso- 
phy of the Teachings of Islam. Tilford, Surrey, U.K.: Islam 
International Publications Ltd., 1996. 

Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi 
Religious Thought and its Medieval Background. Berkeley, 
Los Angeles, and London: University of California 
Press, 1989. 

AvrilA. Powell 

C AMSHA (61 4-678 C.E.) 

'A'isha bint Abi Bakr was the favorite wife of the prophet 
Muhammad and a significant religious and political figure in 

3 2 

islam and the Muslim World 


early Islam. The daughter of Umm Ruman and one of the 
Prophet's companions, Abu Bakr (the first caliph of Islam 
after the death of the Prophet), she married Muhammad at a 
young age. Her intelligence, beauty, and spirited personality 
are well recorded in historical sources. 

The hadith tradition records a unique level of intimacy 
shared by the Prophet and 'A'isha. They bathed in the same 
water, he prayed while she lay stretched out in front of him, 
he received revelation when they were under the same blan- 
ket, and he expressed a desire to be moved to 'A'isha's 
chambers when he knew his death was approaching. Affec- 
tion and playfulness also characterized their relationship. 
They raced with each other and enjoyed listening to the 
singing of Ethiopian musicians together. The Prophet re- 
lated that when c A 3 isha was pleased with him, she would swear 
"By the God of Muhammad" and when she was annoyed with 
him she would swear "By the God of Abraham." She regularly 
engaged the Prophet on issues of revelation and religion. 
Recognizing her intelligence and perceptiveness, he told the 
Muslims "Take two-thirds of your religion from al-Humayra," 
the term of affection referring to the rosy-cheeked [ A 5 isha. 

A scandal once surrounded c A 5 isha, who was mistakenly 
left behind during a caravan rest stop on an expedition with 
the Prophet. She returned to Medina escorted by a young 
man who had found her waiting alone. Amid the ensuing 
gossip and speculation about 'A'isha's fidelity, one of the 
Prophet's companions, c Ali, advised Muhammad to divorce 
her. This caused her to bear deep resentment against c Ali, 
which manifested itself in her later opposition to him as 
Muhammad's successor. Finally a Qur'anic revelation exon- 
erated her of all suspected wrongdoing, proclaiming her 
innocence. This same revelation established the punishment 
for false accusations of adultery. 

In the lifetime of the Prophet she, together with Muham- 
mad's other wives, was referred to as "Mother of the Believ- 
ers." She is known to have transmitted approximately 1,210 
traditions (hadiths), only 300 of which are included in the 
canonical hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim. She is 
said to have transmitted hadith to at least eighty-five Mus- 
lims, as well as to have corrected inaccuracies in the hadiths 
reported by some of the Prophet's male companions. 

After the death of the Prophet, she was critical of the third 
caliph, 'Uthman, but also called his killers to accountability 
during the caliphate of c Ali. Together with the Companions 
Zubair and Talha, she mobilized opposition to 'Ali, culminat- 
ing in the Battle of the Camel (656 c.e.). The name of the 
battle reflects the centrality of 'A'isha's role in the conflict, 
seated on her camel in the middle of the battlefield. This 
struggle over succession marked the development of a major 
civil war (called fitna) in Islam, which ultimately contributed 
to one of the most significant religious and political divisions 
in the Muslim world. The representations of 'A'isha in 
subsequent Shi'ite and Sunni polemics reflected some of the 

historical antagonisms between the two. Many Shi'ite Mus- 
lims reviled 'A'isha, whereas Sunni Muslims embraced her as 
a revered wife of the Prophet. Tradition holds that she was 
consulted on theological, legal, and other religious issues, and 
was also known for her poetic skills. She is buried at al-Baqi 
in Medina. 

See also c Ali; Bukhari, al-; Fitna; Muhammad; Shi c a: 
Early; Sunna. 


Abbott, Nabia. 'A'ishah: The Beloved of Muhammad. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1942. 

Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist 
Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam. Reading, Mass: 
Addison Wesley, 1992. 

Spellberg, Denise A. Politics Gender and the Islamic Past: The 
Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr. New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1994. 

Sa'diyya Shaikh 

AKBAR (1542-1605) 

Jalal al-Din Akbar was born in 1542 as his father Humayun 
fled India before the forces of the Afghan warlord Sher Shah 
Sur. After thirteen years of exile, his father returned to rule 
India, but died in a fall in a matter of months. Akbar came to 
the throne at the age thirteen in 1555. He ruled until his own 
death in 1605. 

Akbar's reputation as the true founder of the Mogul 
empire rests partly on his own reign of fifty years and partly 
on the writings of Abu TFazl, a loyal companion who was 
Akbar's ardent supporter. Abu '1-FazFs A'in-i Akbari and 
Akbamamah presented the image of Akbar as a political 
genius. Abu '1-Fazl saw Akbar as the "perfect man" (insan-i 
kamil) of Sufi lore: a master of both the temporal and spiritual 
realms. He, therefore, inflated Akbar's reputation whenever 

In practical terms, Akbar adopted some of the administra- 
tive practices of the defeated Sher Shah. As the influence of 
his grandfather and father's aging courtiers declined, Akbar 
was free to recruit a new corps of advisors, like Abu '1-Fazl. 
These advisors depended on his patronage for their own 
status. During Akbar's reign, India saw an influx of silver 
bullion as European traders began massive purchases of 
Indian cloth. Because of the cash nexus created by increased 
commerce, Akbar was able to manage a system in which 
officials received salaries either directly from the imperial 
treasury or through assignments of the government's revenue 

islam and the Muslim World 

3 3 

Akh bariyya 

allotment from the capitol of the province for specific dis- 
tricts. The central authority gained an unprecedented degree 
of control over state officials. Akbar's reputation was further 
enhanced as the British came to rule India. They saw him as a 
model for their own style of rule: religiously neutral, but strict 
in his assertion of central power. 

See also Empires: Mogul; South Asia, Islam in. 

Alam, Muzaffar, and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, eds. The Mughal 
State 1526-1150. New Delhi: Oxford University 
Press, 1998. 

Gregory C. Kozlowski 


Akhbariyya was a movement in Twelver Shi c ism that empha- 
sized a return to the sources of the law (Qur'an and hadith). 
Hadith in Twelver Shi c ism include accounts of the sayings 
and actions of the imams (normally termed akhbar). The 
Akhbariyya styled themselves as followers of the imams 
(through the akhbar) that record their rulings, rather than the 
interpretations of these texts by later scholars. The origins of 
the Akhbari movement are a debated point both within the 
Twelver tradition, and among Western commentators. The 
Akhbaris themselves, however, see their movement as the 
original Shi c ism, which was later corrupted by scholars who 
had imitated Sunni methods of jurisprudence. Their oppo- 
nents, termed Usulis (or in some texts, mujtahids), considered 
the Akhbaris an innovative movement {bid 1 a), arising in the 
sixteenth century with the work of Muhammad Amin al- 
Astarabadi (d. 1626). There is evidence to support both 
interpretations of the movement's origins. Early Muslim 
heresiographical works, such as Shahrastani's Kitab al-milal 
wa al-nihal (c. 1127), talk of the division of the imamiyya into 
muHaziliyya and akhbariyya. Whether these early Akhbaris 
can be linked to the later, better-defined, movement is 

In biographical works, Astarabadi is normally described 
as the founder of the movement, though Astarabadi viewed 
himself as its "reviver." He was followed by a number of 
scholars who explicitly identified themselves with the 
Akhbariyya. What united these scholars was a call for the 
return to the sources in a belief that the meaning of the 
imams' words and actions was readily available, but had been 
lost by centuries of excessive interpretation. They identified 
this excessive interpretation with the introduction of the 
doctrine of ijtihad into Shi'ite legal thinking by al-'Allama al- 
Hilli (d. 1 325). Akhbaris also criticized other juristic practices 
linked with the theory of ijtihad. In particular, they viewed the 
"canonical four books" of Twelver Shi'ite hadith as contain- 
ing only "sound" (sahih) traditions. They believed that the 

hadith in these books should not be examined by the tradi- 
tional means of establishing historical accuracy. Further- 
more, the Akhbariyya maintained that these traditions were 
never ambiguous in meaning, and were in no need of inter- 
pretation. In this sense, the Akhbariyya can be viewed as 
literalist, or even fundamentalist. 

The Akhbariyya drew on the diverse areas of Safavid 
Twelver intellectual life. There were Akhbaris who were 
influenced by mysticism and philosophy, such as Muhammad 
Taqi al-Majlisi (d. 1659/1660) and Muhsin Fayd al-Kashani 
(d. 1680), as well as the stricter, more legalistic manifestations 
of Shi'ism, such as Mulla Muhammad Tahir Qummi (d. 
1686) and al-Hurr al-Amili (d. 1693). What they shared was a 
common attitude toward the manner in which the shari'a 
might be known. They were, then, in the main a movement of 
law, and often referred to themselves as a madhhab (school of 
law). As an intellectual force, the Akhbariyya died out in Iran 
and Iraq in the early nineteenth century, though they contin- 
ued for a short time thereafter to be influential in India. Even 
today, there continue to be scholars who follow a methodol- 
ogy similar to Akhbarism in the Shi'ite world, particularly in 
the Persian Gulf area and southern Iran. 

See also Law; Mu c tazilites, Mu c tazila; Shi c a: Imami 


Gleave, Robert. Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shi c i Juris- 
prudence. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000. 

Tabataba'i, H. Modarresssi. "Rationalism and Tradition- 
alism in Shi c i Jurisprudence." Studia Islamica 59 
(1984): 141-158. 

Robert Gleave 


Akhlaq, the plural form of khuluq, refers to innate disposition 
or character and, by extension in Muslim thought, to ethics. 
In the Qur'an the term is used to refer to the prophet 
Muhammad's exemplary ethical character (68:4). The Qur'an 
also emphasizes the significance of ethically guided action as 
the underpinning for a committed Muslim life. Qur'anic 
ethics emphasize in particular the dignity of the human being, 
accountability, justice, care and compassion, stewardship of 
society and the environment, and the obligation to family life 
and values. Faith and ethics are thus intertwined in the 
Qur'an and linked further to the Prophet as a moral exemplar. 

In elaborating and further developing ethical thought, 
Muslims, throughout history, developed a diverse set of 
expressions: philosophical, theological, legal, and literary. 

3 4 

islam and the Muslim World 


These expressions were framed within a context of vigorous 
intellectual debate and in interaction with the legacies of 
many ancient traditions, including the works attributed to 
Aristotle and Plato, and Iranian, Indian, Jewish, and Chris- 
tian thought. 

The Muslim philosophical tradition of ethics developed 
an intellectual framework for rationally grounded moral 
action. Some of the key thinkers who contributed to this were 
al-Farabi (d. 950), Ibn Miskawayh (d. 1030), Ibn Sina (d. 
1037), and Nasir al-Din Tusi (d. 1273/74). Their works in 
turn influenced other major figures, including the Sunni 
scholar al-Ghazali (d. Ill 1), who did not always agree with 
them. The philosophical tradition, in common with other 
early groups such as the Mu'tazila and the Shi'a, emphasized 
reason and logic in arguing for a universal ethical framework. 
Ethical action in their view did not oppose religiously grounded 
ethics, rather it sought to enhance their meaning and appre- 
ciation by philosophical reasoning and took account of per- 
sonal and social, as well as political, virtues. Al-Farabi's classic 
al-Madinah al-Fadilah (The excellent city) explores the ideals 
of a political community that produces the greatest good for 
all its citizens. 

Muslim legal tradition also developed a framework for 
guiding individual and social behavior. In Muslim law (shari'a) 
jurists classified acts according to their moral value, ranging 
from obligatory, meritorious, indifferent, disapproved, and 
the forbidden. All actions thus fell within these normatively 
and juristically defined categories and provided religiously 
defined prescriptions that could be enacted at a personal as 
well as a social level to followers by scholars trained in 
jurisprudence and religious sciences. 

Mystically grounded ethics as developed in the Sufi tradi- 
tion emphasized the necessity of an inner orientation and 
awareness for guiding human action, leading to greater inti- 
macy, knowledge, and personal experience of the divine. 
Ethical acts were linked to spiritual development, and Sufi 
teachers wrote manuals, guides, and literary works to illus- 
trate the way — tariqa — which represented, in their view, the 
inner dimension of outward acts. 

In the modern period, as Muslims have come into greater 
contact with each other and with the rest of the world, their 
ethical legacy, while still continuing to be influential in its 
traditional forms, is also being challenged to address emerg- 
ing issues, changing needs, and social transition. Muslim 
scholars are debating and formulating responses to a variety 
of issues, prominent among which are the ethical bases of 
political, social, and legal governance; the ethics of a just 
economic order; family life; war and peace; biomedical ethics; 
human rights and freedoms; the ethics of life; and the broader 
question raised by globalization, degradation of the environ- 
ment, and the uses and abuses of technology. 

See also Adab; Ethics and Social Issues; Falsafa. 


Cook, Michael. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong 
in Islamic Thought. New York: Cambridge University 
Press, 2000. 

Izutsu, Toshihiko. Ethno-Religious Concepts in the Quran. Montr- 
eal: McGill University Press, 1966 

Azim Nanji 

AKHUND See Moth 

C ALI (600-661) 

'Ali ibn Talib, born in Mecca about 600 c.e., was the cousin 
and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, father of the 
Prophet's grandsons Hasan and Husayn, and fourth caliph 
(656-661) of the Muslim umma (community of believers). 

At a very young age, 'Ali was adopted by Muhammad, who 
brought him up like his own son. When Muhammad received 
the divine revelation, 'Ali was still a very young boy. He was 
the first male to accept Islam, and to dedicate all his life to the 
cause of Islam. 'Ali's courage became legendary because he 
led several important missions. 

At the Prophet's death, the community split into two 
major groups contending for political succession. During a 
gathering of the ansar (helpers), Abu Bakr was elected first 
caliph. A group led by 'Ali and his supporters (Zubayr, Talha, 
Miqdad, Salman al-Farsi, and Abu Dharr Ghifari, among 
others) held that 'Ali was the legitimate heir of the Prophet. 
To preserve the unity of the Muslim umma, 'Ali is said to have 
kept a low profile and concentrated his efforts on religious 
matters. The first version of the Qur'an was attributed to him 
by some of his contemporaries. In the period preceding his 
caliphate, 'Ali, known for his learning in Qur'an and sunna, 
had given advice on secular and spiritual matters. On several 
occasions, he disagreed with Uthman (the third caliph) and 
criticized him on the application of certain Islamic principles. 

Following Uthman's murder, the ansar invited 'Ali to 
accept the caliphate and he agreed only after a long hesita- 
tion. All through his brief governing period, 'Ali faced strong 
opposition. First he was opposed by 'A'isha, Muhammad's 
wife, but the strongest opposition came from Mu'awiya, who 
had his stronghold in Syria. Two companions of the Prophet, 
Talha and Zubayr, already frustrated in their political ambi- 
tions, were further disappointed by 'Ali, in their efforts to 
secure for themselves the governorships of Basra and Kufa. 
Thus they broke with him and asked to bring Uthman's 

islam and the Muslim World 

3 5 


murderers to trial. c Ali appointed 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas gover- 
nor of Basra, and went to Kufa in order to gain support 
against Mu'awiya. He formed a diverse coalition, comprised 
of men like 'Ammar b. Yasir, Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada, Malik 
Ashtar, and Ash'at b. Qays Kindi. 

'Ali opened negotiations with Mu'awiya, hoping to gain 
his allegiance. Mu'awiya insisted on Syrian autonomy under 
his own leadership. Thus he mobilized his Syrian supporters 
and refused to pay homage to 'Ali, on the pretext that his 
people had not participated in his election. After a few 
months of confrontation, 'Amr b. 'As advised Mu'awiya to 
have his soldiers raise parchments inscribed with verses of the 
Qur'an on their spearheads; the goal was to bring about the 
cessation of hostilities between the people of Iraq, who 
formed the bulk of 'Ali's army, and the people of Syria. 'Ali 
saw through the stratagem, but only a minority wanted to 
pursue the fight. Hence he ended the fight and sent Ash'at b. 
Qays to find out Mu'awiya's intentions. Mu'awiya suggested 
that each side should choose an arbiter; together, the two 
men would reach a decision based on the Qur'an. This 
decision would then be binding on both parties. 'Amr b. 'As, 
the Syrian representative, and Abu Musa Ash'ari, the Iraqi 
representative, met to draft an agreement, but in the mean- 
time 'Ali's coalition began to collapse. The arbiters and other 
eminent persons met at Adruh in January 659 to discuss the 
selection of the new caliph. Both parties agreed to the choice 
of 'Ali and Mu'awiya and were willing to submit the selection 
of the new caliph to an electorate body (shura). In the public 
declaration that followed, Abu Musa kept his part of the 
agreement, but 'Amr b. 'As deposed 'Ali and declared 
Mu'awiya caliph. 

Meanwhile, Mu'awiya had followed an aggressive course 
of action by making incursions into the heart of Iraq and 
Arabia. By the end of 660 'Ali, who was regarded as caliph 
only by a diminishing number of partisans, lost control of 
Egypt and Hijaz. He was struck with a poisoned sword by a 
Kharijite named 'Abd-al-Rahman b. Muljam while praying in 
a mosque at Kufa. 'Ali died at the age of sixty-three and was 
buried near Kufa in late January 661. 'Ali's death brought to 
an end the era of Rashidun, the four "rightly-guided" caliphs. 
The Sunnis believe that the order of merit corresponds to the 
chronological historical order of succession of the four first 
caliphs (Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali). The Shi'ites 
preferred 'Ali over the first three caliphs; they never accepted 
Mu'awiya or any later caliphs, and took the name shi'at 'Ali, 
or 'Ali's Party. 

Several places are mentioned as 'Ali's shrine. But most 
Shi'ite scholars are in agreement that 'Ali was buried in 
Ghari, west of Kufa, at the site of present-day Najaf. These 
scholars explained the discrepancies among the various re- 
ports by maintaining that 'Ali himself requested to be buried 
in a secret place so as to prevent his enemies from desecrating 

Although many Muslims forbid representing the Prophet and his 
family in images, this fresco depicts 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, fourth caliph 
of Islam, and the cousin and brother-in-law of Muhammad. 
Muhammad raised 'Ali like a son, and 'Ali became the first male to 
accept Islam. Here, 'Ali holds the body of an imam killed during 
political power struggles after Muhammad's death. © SEF/Art 
Resource, NY 

his grave. Under the Safavid Empire, his grave became the 
focus of much devoted attention, exemplified in the pilgrim- 
age made by Shah Isma'il I (d. 1524) to Najaf and Karbala. 
Today a gold-plated dome rises above 'Ali's tomb. The 
interior is decorated with polished silver, mirror work, and 
ornamental tiles. A silver tomb rises over the grave itself, and 
the courtyard has two minarets. The recitation of special 
prayers over 'Ali's grave is considered particularly beneficial 
in view of 'Ali's role as intercessor on the Day of Judgment. 
Sunni polemicists have often accused the Shi'ites of prefer- 
ring pilgrimages to the tombs of 'Ali and other imams over 
the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

It is important to note that 'Ali's position became impor- 
tant to different groups of Muslims starting from the early 
period. For the Shi'a, he is said to have participated in the 
Prophet's ascension (mi'raf) to heaven and acquired several 
honorific titles. The 'Alya'iyya believed in the divinity of 
Muhammad and 'Ali, and gave preference in divine matters to 
'Ali. Among Sufis he is renowned as a great Sufi saint for his 
piety and poverty as well as the possessor of esoteric knowl- 
edge. The early Shi'ite traditions regarded 'Ali as the most 
judicious of the Companions and the Prophet nicknamed him 

3 6 

islam and the Muslim World 


Abu Turab (Father of Dust) because he saw him sleeping in 
the courtyard of the mosque. Some sources agree that 'Ah was 
a profoundly religious man, devoted to the cause of Islam and 
the rule of justice in accordance with the Qur'an and the sunna. 

One of the basic differences between Shi'ism and Sunnism 
concerns the question of the respective roles of 'Ali (and the 
other imams) on the one hand, and Muhammad on the other. 
Shi'ism shares with Sunnism the belief that Muhammad, as 
seal of the prophets, was the last to have received revelation 
(wahy). Classical Shi'ite doctrine holds that 'Ali and the other 
imams were the recipients of inspiration (ilham). But it is only 
the legislative prophecy that has come to an end, that is, the 
previous prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muham- 
mad, the last of the legislative prophets, introduced a new 
religious law while abrogating the previous one; the guidance 
of humanity must continue under the walaya (Institution of 
the Friends of God) of an esoteric prophecy (Nubuwa batiniyya). 
Thus 'Ali, the first imam, is designated as the foundation 
(asas) of the imamate. He is the possessor of a divine light 
(nur) passed on from Muhammad to him, and later from him 
on to the other imams. The Sunnis believe that the Prophet 
did not explicitly name his successor after his death; the 
Shi'ites, on the contrary, hold that he explicitly named his 
successor 'Ali at Ghadir Khumm, an oasis between Mecca 
and Medina. 

According to the Shi'a, a passage in the Qur'an (2:118) 
shows that the imamate is a divine institution; the possessor 
thereof must be from the seed of Ibrahim: "And when his 
Lord tested Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled 
them. He said, 'Behold, I make you a leader [imam] for the 
people.' Said he, 'And of my seed?'" Even the Sunnis hold 
that the true caliph can only be one of the Quraysh tribe, but 
based on this verse the Shi'a maintain that the divinely 
appointed leader must himself be impeccable (ma'sum). The 
primeval creation of 'Ali is therefore a principle of the Shi'ite 
faith. According to them, as expressed by Muhammad Baqir 
Majlisi (d. 1698), Muhammad explicitly designated (nassjali) 
'Ali as his successor by God's command: 

When the ceremonies of the pilgrimage were com- 
pleted, the Prophet, attended by 'Ali and the Muslims, 
left Mecca for Medina. On reaching Ghadir Khumm, 
he [the Prophet] halted, although that place had never 
before been a halting place for caravans. The reason for 
the halt was that verses of the Qur'an had come upon 
him, commanding him to establish 'Ali in the Caliphate. 
Before this he had received similar messages, but had 
not been instructed explicitly as to the time for 'Ali's 
appointment. He had delayed because of opposition 
that might occur. But if the crowd of pilgrims had gone 
beyond Ghadir Khumm they would have separated 
and the different tribes would have gone in various 
directions. This is why Muhammad ordered them to 
assemble here, for he had things to say to 'Ali which he 
wanted all to hear. The message that came from the 

islam and the Muslim World 

Most High was this: "O Apostle, declare all that has 
been sent down to thee from thy Lord. No part of it is 
to be withheld. God will protect you against men, for 
he does not guide the unbelievers" (5:71). Because of 
this positive command to appoint 'Ali as his successor, 
and perceiving that God would not countenance fur- 
ther delay, he and his company dismounted in this 
unusual stopping place. The day was hot and he told 
them to stand under shelter of some thorn trees . . . 
when the crowd had all gathered, Muhammad walked 
up on to the platform of saddles and called 'Ali to stand 
at his right. After a prayer of thanks he spoke to the 
people, informing them that he had been forewarned 
of his death, and saying, "I have been summoned to the 
Gate of God, and I shall soon depart to God, to be 
concealed from you, and bidding farewell to this world. 
I am leaving you the Book of God [Qur'an] , and if you 
follow this you will not go astray. And I am leaving you 
also the members of household [ahl al-bayt], who are 
not to be separated from the Book of God until they 
meet me at the drinking fountain of Kawthar." He then 
called out, "Am I not, more precious to you than your 
own lives?" They said "Yes." Then it was that he took 
'Ali's hands and raised them so high that he showed the 
whites of his armpits, and said, "Whoever has me as his 
master (mawla) has 'Ali as his master. Be friend to his 
friend, O Lord, and be an enemy to his enemies. Help 
those who assist him and frustrate those who oppose 
him." (Donaldson, p. 5) 

This sura concluded the revelation: "This day I have 
perfected your religion for you, and have filled up the meas- 
ure of my favors upon you, and it is my pleasure that Islam be 
your religion" (5:5). The event of Ghadir Khumm is not 
denied by Sunnis but interpreted differently by them. For the 
Sunnis, Muhammad wanted only to honor 'Ali. They under- 
stood the term mawla in the sense of friend, whereas the Shi'a 
recognized 'Ali as their master; the spiritual authority of 'Ali 
was passed afterward to his direct descendants, the rightful 
guides (imams). The successor of the Prophet, for the Sunnis, 
is his khalifa (caliph), the guardian of religious law (shari'a), 
while for the Shi'ites, the successor is the inheritor (wasi) of 
his esoteric knowledge and the interpreter, par excellence, of 
the Qur'an. Since Muhammad was the last Prophet who 
closed the prophetic cycle, the Shi'a believe that humanity 
still needs spiritual guidance: the cycle of imamate must 
succeed the cycle of prophecy. Another tradition gives us 
some insight into the key role of 'Ali, based on the status of 
Aaron: "O people, know that what Aaron was to Moses, 'Ali is 
to me, except that there shall be no prophet after me." 
(Poonawala and Kohlberg, p. 842). The imamate is a cardinal 
principle of Shi'ite faith. It is only through the imam that true 
knowledge can be obtained. 'Ali, as the Wasi, assisted Mu- 
hammad in his task. The Prophet received the revelation 
(tanzil) and established the religious law (shari'a), while 'Ali, 
the repository of the Prophet's knowledge, provided its 



spiritual exegesis (ta'ivil). Thus the imamate, the heart of 
Shi'ism, is closely tied to 'Ali's spiritual mission. For Sunnis, 
the imamate is necessary because of the revelation and is 
considered a law among the laws of religion. For them, the 
imamate is not part of the principles of religion and belief, 
whereas for Shi'ites, the imamate is a rational necessity and an 
obliged grace (luff wajib). 

From the beginning, Shi'ite Islam has emphasized the 
importance of human intellect placed in the service of faith. 
The origins of the encouragement given to intellect goes 
back to 'Ali the commander of the faithful (amir al-mu'minin). 
According to a saying attributed to him, there is an intimate 
bond between intellect and faith: "Intellect ['aql\ in the heart 
is like a lamp in the center of the house" (Amir-Moezzi, p. 48). 
The heart's eye of the faithful can see the divine light (nur) 
when there is no longer anyone between God and him; it is 
when God showed Himself to him, since c aql is the interior 
guide (imam) of the believer. 

In early Sufi circles, 'Ali was especially renowned for his 
piety and poverty. He is said to have dressed simply. His 
biographies abound in statements about his austerity, rigor- 
ous observance of religious duties, and detachment from 
worldly goods. He is also described as the most knowledge- 
able of the Companions, in terms of both theological ques- 
tions and matters of positive law. Abu al-Qasim al-Junayd (d. 
910) considered 'Ali as his "master in the roots and branches 
[of religious knowledge] and in perseverance in the face of 
hardship" (Poonawala and Kohlberg, p. 846). With the growth 
of Sufi doctrine in the tenth and eleventh centuries, increas- 
ing emphasis was placed on 'Ali's possession of a knowledge 
imparted directly by God ('Urn laduni). Most of the Sufis 
believe that each shaykh or pir (sage) inherited his knowledge 
directly from 'Ali. The investment of the cloak as a symbol of 
the transmission of spiritual powers is closely associated to 
c Ali: the two precious things shown to Muhammad during the 
mystical ascent (mi'raj) were spiritual poverty and a cloak that 
he had placed on c Ali and his family (Fatima, Hasan, and 

Sufi orders flourished particularly in Central Asia and 
Persia; Muslim scholars became imbued with Shi c ite specula- 
tive theology and Sufism. One of the earliest representatives 
of this trend was 'Ali b.Mitham Bahrani (d. 1281), who saw in 
'Ali the original shaykh and founder of the mystical tradition. 
For them 'Ali's mission is seen as the hidden and secret aspect 
of prophecy. This underlying idea is based on the Khutbat al- 
bayan: "I am the Sign of the Ail-Powerful. I am the Gnosis of 
mysteries. I am the companion of the radiance of the divine 
Majesty. I am the First and the Last, the Manifest and the 
Hidden. I am the Face of God. I am the mirror of God, the 
supreme Pen, the Tabula secreta. I am he who in the Gospel 
is called Elijah. I am he who is in possession of the secret of 
God's Messenger" (Corbin, p. 49). Or this next one: "I 

carried Noah in the ark, I am Jonah's companion in the belly 
of the fish. I am Khadir, who taught Moses, I am the Teacher 
of David and Solomon, I am Dhu al-Qarnayn" (Poonawala 
and Kohlberg, p. 847). According to another tradition (Amir- 
Moezzi, p. 30), Muhammad and 'Ali were created from the 
same divine light inur) and remained united in the world of 
the spirits; only in this world did they separate into individual 
entities so that mankind might be shown the difference 
between Prophet and Wali. It is only through him that God 
may be known. 

See also Caliphate; Imamate; Shi c a: Early; Succession. 

Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali. The Divine Guide in Early 
Shi'ism. Translated by David Streight. Albany, N.Y.: State 
University of New York, 1994. 

Corbin, Henry. History of Islamic Philosophy. Translated by 
Liadain Sherrard and Philip Sherrard. London: Kegan 
Paul International, 1993. 

Donaldson, Dwight M. The Shi'ite Religion. London: 
Luzac, 1933. 

Hollister, John. The Shi'a of India. London: Luzac, 1955. 

Jafri, S. H. M. The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a 
Islam. London and New York: Longman, 1979. 

Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi'i Islam: The History 
and Doctrines of Twelver Shi' ism. New Haven, Conn.: Yale 
University Press, 1985. 

Mufid, Shaykh al-. Kitdb al-lrshad. Translated by I. K. A. 
Howard. New York: Muhammadi Trust, 1981. 

Poonawala, Ismail K., and Kohlberg, Etan. '"Ali b. Abi 
Taleb." In Vol. 1, Encyclopaedia Iranica. London and Bos- 
ton: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982. 

Diana Steigerwald 


The north Indian city of Aligarh, site of Aligarh Muslim 
University, has played a leading role in the political life and 
intellectual history of South Asian Muslims since the mid- 
dle of the nineteenth century. The importance of Aligarh 
arose initially under the leadership of Sayyid Ahmad Khan 
(1817-1898). Through a series of organizations and institu- 
tions, the "Aligarh movement" (the social, cultural, and 
political movement founded by Sayyid Ahmad Khan) sought 
to prepare Muslims for changes in technology, social life, and 
politics associated with British rule, the rise of nationalism, 
and the conditions of modernity. In 1865, Aligarh became the 
headquarters of the Aligarh Scientific Society, and, in 1875, 
the Mahomedan Anglo-Oriental College, the forerunner of 

3 8 

islam and the Muslim World 


the university established there in 1920. Aligarh was the first 
headquarters of the Muslim League, a party established in 
1906 to secure recognition of Muslims as a separate political 
community within India, a concept that ultimately led in 
1947 to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan as a 
separate nation-state for South Asian Muslims. After parti- 
tion, the Aligarh Muslim University remained one of a small 
group of national universities in India. 

In its early years, the Aligarh College attracted patronage 
and recruited students from Muslim communities through- 
out India, both Sunni and Shi'a, as well as significant numbers 
of Hindus. Aside from some short-lived efforts to include 
Arabic studies and Urdu as a language of instruction, the 
college followed the standard British imperial curriculum. 
Official British patronage became more significant after 1887, 
when Sayyid Ahmad Khan called for Muslim opposition to 
the newly founded Indian National Congress. In the twenti- 
eth century, Aligarh became an arena for opposing political 
tendencies among Muslims, including supporters of Indian 
nationalism and international socialism, as well as of Muslim 
separatism. Aligarh graduates achieved prominence as writ- 
ers, jurists, and political leaders. At the same time, Aligarh 
was the target of much opposition, particularly for its associa- 
tion with social reform and religious modernism. In 1906 the 
Aligarh Zenana Madrasa provided separate education for 
girls, and became the Aligarh Women's College in 1925. 

When Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan died in 1898, his succes- 
sors initiated a campaign to establish an autonomous, all- 
India educational system for Muslims under the auspices of 
an affiliating university. The university established in 1920, 
however, was confined to Aligarh and remained under British 
control. In response, Mohandas K. Gandhi and two Aligarh 
graduates, the brothers Shaukat c Ali and Muhammad 'Ali, led 
a noncooperation campaign that established an alternative 
nationalist institution, theJami'aMilli'alslamiya, outside the 
campus gates and subsequently relocated to Delhi. In the 
final years before independence and partition, Aligarh stu- 
dents toured India on behalf of the Pakistan cause, though 
others devoted themselves to the ideal of a united and 
secular India. 

Zakir Hussain, the first postindependence vice chancellor 
of Aligarh Muslim University, and later president of India, 
succeeded in preserving the university's Muslim identity as a 
way of preparing Muslims for full participation in national 
life. A center for Urdu writers and historians of Mughal India, 
many of them Marxists, the university has so far been able to 
fend off efforts to undermine its role as an national center for 
Indian Muslims. 

See also Ahmad Khan, (Sir) Sayyid; Education; Mod- 
ernism; Pakistan, Islamic Republic of; South Asia, 
Islam in; Urdu Language, Literature, and Poetry. 


Graff, Violette. "Aligarh's Long Quest for 'Minority' Status: 
AMU (Amendment) Act. 1981." Economic and Political 
Weekly 25, no. 32 (1980): 1771-1781. 

Hasan, Mushirul. "Nationalist and Separatist Trends in 
Aligarh, 1915-47." The Indian Economic and Social History 
Review 22, no. 1 (1985): 1-34. 

Lelyveld, David. Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity 
in British India. 2d ed. New Delhi: Oxford University 
Press, 1996. 

David Lelyveld 


Allah is the Arabic equivalent of the English word God, and is 
the term employed not only among Arabic-speaking Muslims 
but by Christians and Jews and in Arabic translations of the 
Bible. A contraction of al-ilah, meaning "the god," Allah is 
cognate with the generic pan-Semitic designation for "God" 
or "deity" (Israelite/Canaanite El, Akkadian ilu) and is par- 
ticularly close to the common Hebrew term Elohim and the 
less frequent Eloah. It is thus, strictly speaking, not a proper 
name but a title. 

In the Islamic context, as in Jewish and Christian usage, 
Allah refers to the one true God of monotheism. This is how 
the term occurs in the shahada or "profession of faith," the 
simplest, earliest, and most basic of Islamic creeds, in the first 
part of which the believer affirms that there is no "god" (ilah) 
but "God" or "the god" (Allah). However, the shahada itself 
seems to imply that Allah was already known to the first 
audience of the Islamic revelation, and that they were called 
upon to repudiate other deities. And this is precisely the 
picture given in the Qur 3 an. "If you ask them who created 
them," the Qur'an informs the prophet Muhammad regard- 
ing his pagan critics, "they will certainly say 'Allah.'" (43:87; 
compare 10:31; 39:38). Pagan Arabs swore oaths by Allah (as 
witnessed at 6:109; 16:38; 35:42). 

Pre-Islamic Arabs believed in supernatural intercessors 
with God (10:18; 34:22), for whom they appeared to claim 
warrant from Allah. (See, for example, 6:148.) Indeed, Allah 
seems (in their view) to have headed a pantheon of pre- 
Islamic deities or supernatural beings, not altogether unlike 
El's rule over the Canaanite pantheon, and, like El, he seems 
to have been rather distant and aloof. While the data are 
fragmentary and open to some question, pre-Islamic Arabs 
seem to have paid more attention to Allah's daughters and to 
the jinn (or genies) than to him. Even the Qur'an seems to 
concede genuine existence to a divine retinue (as at 7:191-195; 
10:28-29; 25:3). However, just as the Canaanite gods are 

islam and the Muslim World 

3 9 


This tilework at the tomb of Baba Qasim in Isfahan, Iran, spells Allahu Akbar, or "Cod is Great." Allah, the Arabic name for God, appears 
frequently in Islamic art and architecture in calligraphic script. © Roger Wood/Corbis 

replaced by an angelic court in Israelite faith, Islam rejects the 
independent deities of pagan Arabia in favor of a very much 
subordinated "exalted assembly" (see 37:8; 38:69) that exists 
to carry out the decrees of the one true God, who is, says the 
Qur'an, nearer to the individual human than that person's 
jugular vein (50: 16). In this, as in other respects, Islam regards 
itself as a restoration of the religion taught by earlier prophets 
but marred by successive human apostasies (see 42:13). 

The Qur'an identifies Allah as the creator, sustainer, and 
sovereign of the heavens and the earth. (See, for example, 
13:16; 29:61, 63; 31:25; 39:38; 43:9, 87.) Following the 
scriptural text, Muslims characterize him by the ninety-nine 
"most beautiful names" (7:180; 17:110; 20:8), which serve to 
identify his attributes. (Eventually, repetition of and medita- 
tion upon these names became an important practice in the 
tradition of Sufi mysticism.) They portray a being who is self- 
sufficient, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, merciful yet just, 
benevolent but terrible in his wrath. The picture of Allah in 
the Qur'an employs distinctly anthropomorphic language 
(referring, for example, to the divine eyes, hands, and face), 
which, virtually all commentators have long agreed, are to be 
taken figuratively. 

Allah has revealed himself throughout history via mes- 
sages to various prophets by means of both the seemingly 
routine processes of nature and the periodic judgments and 
catastrophes directed against the rebellious. He will reveal 
himself even more spectacularly at the end of time when, as 
judge of humankind, he pronounces doom or blessing upon 
every individual who has ever lived. The faith of Muhammad 

and the Qur'an is centered on absolute "submission" {islam) 
to his will. 

The Qur'an describes God as "Allah, one; Allah, the 
eternal refuge. He does not beget nor is He begotten, and 
there is none equal to Him" (112:1-4). In subsequent Islamic 
thought, such straightforward denial of divine family life 
(probably aimed at both the pre-Islamic pantheon and Chris- 
tian concepts of God the Father and God the Son) was 
expanded into a much broader doctrine of the divine unity, 
denoted by the non-Qur'anic word tawhid ("unification" or 
"making one"). Philosophers and theologians debated such 
questions as whether God's attributes were identical to God's 
essence, or whether, being multiple, they must be additional 
and in a sense external in order not to compromise the utter 
and absolute simplicity of the divine essence. They debated 
how the undeniably manifold cosmos had emerged out of the 
pure oneness of God. The issue of whether God's speech (i.e., 
the Qur'an) was coeternal with him, or subsidiary and cre- 
ated, rising to political prominence in the second and third 
centuries after Muhammad. The overwhelming personality 
depicted in the revelations of Muhammad became the Neces- 
sary Existent (wajib al-viujud), and the obvious dependence of 
life on his will (particularly apparent in the harsh desert 
environment of Arabia) was taken to point to the utter 
contingency of all creation upon a God who brought it into 
being out of nothing. Perhaps not unrelated was the rise to 
dominance in Islam of a doctrine of predestination or deter- 
minism, which had obvious roots in the Qur'an itself (as, for 
example, at 13:27; 16:93; 74:31). In the meantime, though, 


islam and the Muslim World 

American Culture and Islam 

while the philosophers were elaborating a view of Allah 
tending to extreme transcendence, Sufi theoreticians were 
emphasizing his immanence and experiential accessibility 
and, in practice, often breaking down the barrier between 
Creator and creatures — and occasionally shocking their fel- 
low Muslims. 

The famous "Throne Verse" (2:255) offers a fine sum- 
mary of basic Islamic teaching regarding God: "Allah! There 
is no god but he, the Living, the Everlasting. Neither slumber 
nor sleep seizes him. His are all things in the heavens and the 
earth. Who is there who can intercede with him, except by his 
leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind 
them, while they comprehend nothing of his knowledge 
except as he wills. His throne extends over the heavens and 
the earth. Sustaining them does not burden him, for he is the 
Most High, the Supreme." The depth of Muslim devotion to 
Allah is apparent virtually everywhere in Islamic life, includ- 
ing even the use of elaborate calligraphic renditions of the 
word as architectural and artistic ornamentation. 

See also Asnam; Qui- 3 an; Shirk. 

Ghazali, al-. The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Translated by 
Michael E. Marmura. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young Uni- 
versity Press, 2000. 

Rahbar, Daud. God of Justice: A Study in the Ethical Doctrine of 
the Qufan. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960. 

Watt, W. Montgomery. Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An 
Extended Survey. 2d ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University 
Press, 1985. 

Williams, Wesley. "Aspects of the Creed of Imam Ahmad ibn 
Hanbal: A Study of Anthropomorphism in Early Islamic 
Discourse." International Journal of Middle East Studies 34, 
no. 3 (2002): 441-463. 

Daniel C. Peterson 

ALMORAVIDS See Moravids 


The interface between American culture and Islamic culture 
in the American Muslim community is a multifaceted issue. 
Understanding this interface entails exploring the influence 
of American culture on the Muslim community and how 
American Muslims view American culture. Another aspect of 

this interface is the influence of Muslims and Islamic culture 
on American culture and the American public's perception of 
Muslims and Islam. 

The Muslim community itself is multilayered. A sizable 
portion of the Muslim community consists of those who do 
not attend a mosque, associate with other Muslim organiza- 
tions, and do not practice Islam. This group has little interest 
in maintaining Islamic culture and, therefore, they are the 
most willing to assimilate into American culture. For many of 
them, their identity as American is paramount. This article 
does not focus on this group, but instead focuses on those 
Muslims who identify and associate with Muslim groups. 

The Muslims who do associate with mosques and Muslim 
organizations are composed of immigrants (the majority 
being first generation), the children of immigrants (largely 
second generation) and converts (largely African American 
with significant numbers of Caucasian and Hispanic Ameri- 
cans). The dynamics of the interface of American and Islamic 
culture in these groups differ. First-generation immigrants 
bring to America a set of customs shaped by the Muslim 
world, and these customs are affected by the American 
environment. Converts, already acculturated when they adopt 
Islam, modify their American culture to fit into the new 
environment of Islam. The children of immigrants, raised in 
America, are acculturated to two cultures and they must 
decide how each one fits. 

American Culture's Impact on Muslims 

In the early decades of the Muslim presence in America 
(1920-1970), Muslim immigrant groups, possibly pressured 
by the dominant paradigm of the melting pot, allowed for the 
inclusion of many American cultural practices (e.g. dancing 
the twist in the youth associations and Saturday night bingo 
in the mosque). Also, converts to the major heterodoxical 
Islamic groups, such as the Nation of Islam and the Moorish 
Science Temple, mixed freely Islamic and American practices 
(e.g. chairs in the mosque, hymns, and fasting during 

All of that changed beginning in the 1970s when large 
waves of newly-arrived, Islamically self-confident immigrants 
opposed the earlier immigrants's "Americanized" mosques, 
and convert groups began trying to incorporate "authentic" 
Islam into their practice. The new paradigm of ethnic pride 
and multiculturalism gave greater acceptance and legitimacy 
to the "foreignness" of Muslim practice, and the new power- 
ful trend of Islamic revivalism gave motivation to Muslims to 
retain their Islamic practice. The overtly American cultural 
practices disappeared in mosques and Muslim organizations. 

Thirty years later, the Muslim community has aged and 
mellowed, and a new consensus is emerging that American 
Muslims should adhere to those aspects of Islam that are truly 
Islamic as opposed to old-world cultural practices, and then 
allow the adaptation of those aspects of American culture that 

islam and the Muslim World 


American Culture and Islam 

Muslim men leave a mosque in Washington, D.C. Muslims who 
associate with mosques are composed of immigrants, second- 
generation Americans, and converts to Islam. © Catherine 

are not contradictory to Islam. This is a new paradigm that 
guards against changes in core religious practices while wel- 
coming the assimilation of certain American cultural prac- 
tices. The idea is to be fully Muslim and American. Overall, 
the impact of American culture on the Muslim community 
has been significant but it has not touched basic Islamic 
practice. In other words, Saturday night bingo has not re- 
turned to the mosque, but pizza is the favorite food at mosque 

The mosque. The greatest impact of the American environ- 
ment on the Muslim community has been the transformation 
of the role of the mosque and the imam. Muslims have 
adopted a congregational model for the mosque as a self- 
governed community center, which is unlike the Muslim 
world where the mosque is simply a place of prayer, and the 
family and other institutions perform key cultural tasks. In 
America the mosque is a center for educating children, 
socialization, and major cultural events like marriages and 
funerals. For example, celebrating the major Muslim holidays 
in the Muslim world is largely tied to the extended family 

while in America the mosque is a center of activities with 
community dinners and festivals with games and gifts for 
children. American marriages are often events for the entire 
mosque community, as opposed to the extended family. 

The role of the imam in America has likewise changed 
dramatically. In the Muslim world the imam is simply the 
prayer leader, but the imam in America serves more as a 
pastor — much of his time spent in counseling, administering 
the mosque, and serving as spokesman for the mosque to the 
wider community. 

Marriage. Muslim marriage customs in America have changed 
but not significantly. One major shift is that the signing of the 
marriage contract is sometimes a public event and not a 
private family affair as in the Muslim world. The public 
signing event resembles an American wedding ceremony 
with some differences — the bride and groom sit and often 
face the congregation. Signing the contract and the tradi- 
tional wedding banquet (ivalima) in America often occur on 
the same occasion, which is not always the case in the Muslim 
world. Marriage gifts are often brought to the wedding 
banquet, which is the American custom, as opposed to the 
Muslim world where gifts are more often brought before the 

Arranged marriages among Muslim immigrants are still 
common but in many cases the marriage is only half arranged: 
the son/daughter picks a mate and then informs the parents 
who begin the process of arranging the marriage. Muslim 
youth in America are certainly more involved in choosing a 
mate than their counterparts in the Muslim countries. One of 
the results is that interethnic marriages are slowly increasing. 
One of the persistent legal questions in the immigrant com- 
munity occurs when the son or daughter desires to marry a 
good Muslim of another ethnic group, and the parents 
prohibit the marriage. More and more imams are taking the 
side of the youth and pressuring the parents to relent. The 
traditional dowry (mahr) in America is usually a very reason- 
able amount whereas in the Muslim world the dowry is often 
high because of its role in reinforcing status and class. For 
many individuals, especially those who do not have a family in 
America, Muslim matchmaking services are very popular. 
The matrimonial sections in Muslim magazines are widely 
used and Internet services, such as and, offer an array of services. 

Gender. The issue of gender equity has become one of the 
most controversial issues in the Muslim community. About 
one-quarter of regular mosque participants in America are 
women, and in African American mosques over one-third of 
participants are women. These percentages are extremely low 
for Christian churches but in comparison to the Muslim 
world, where women have no role in the mosque, this is a 
significant difference. Women are most active in administer- 
ing the weekend school and other social events. Two-thirds 
of mosques allow women to sit on their governing board, but 


islam and the Muslim World 

American Culture and Islam 

Mosques in the United States have developed as self-governed community centers, providing sites for educating children, socialization, and 
major cultural events. This is unlike the mosque's role in the Muslim world it is simply a place for prayer. © C. John Renard/Corbis 

only one-half have had women sit on their board in the last 
five years. Many Muslim women, who are unhappy with the 
progress of American mosques, have moved outside the 
mosque to organize. On the local level, women have estab- 
lished numerous study groups. On the national level Muslim 
women's groups have been established, such as Muslim 
Women's League, North American Council for Muslim 
Women, and Muslim Women Lawyer's Committee for 
Human Rights (KARAMA). Some Muslim organizations 
have become more inclusive of women: In 2000 the Islamic 
Society of North America elected for the first time a female 
vice president, and there are a significant number of Muslim 
student associations, dominated by second-generation immi- 
grants, that have female presidents. The clear trend is that 
women's involvement is growing. 

Youth. Youth bear the greatest pressure to assimilate Ameri- 
can culture, and as a result many immigrants and African 
Americans have ceased to practice Islam. The issue of the 
assimilation of Muslim youth is, therefore, a major problem 
in the eyes of most Muslims. The Muslim youth who have 
maintained their association with the Muslim community 
evince outward aspects of American culture such as dress, 
sports, food, and entertainment — Muslim youth groups have 
their own "Islamic" rap music, and comedy shows — but they 
have fit it all within the boundaries of Islam. Dancing is still 

not present in Muslim youth groups, except that Imam 
Warith Deen Muhammad's organization provides limited 
occasions where dancing is permitted. Imam Muhammad is 
the son and successor to Elijah Muhammad, founder of the 
Nation of Islam. In 1975, when Imam Muhammad took the 
reins of the Nation of Islam, he transformed the organization 
into a "mainstream" Islamic group. The organization has 
gone through many name changes, and the present name 
since 2002 is American Society of Muslims. It is the largest 
African American Muslim group. 

The loser in all this is not so much Muslim religious 
practice but ethnic cultural practice. Many youth are shed- 
ding their ethnic identity but maintaining a Muslim identity 
that supercedes all other identities. Muslim youth are, there- 
fore, less interested in how Islam is practiced back in their 
parents's home countries and more interested in identifying a 
legitimate Islamic tradition that is scripturally based and 
relevant to life in America. Muslim youth best exemplify the 
new paradigm of retaining core Islamic practices while adopt- 
ing American culture. 

Holidays and patriotism. The Muslim community in America 
does not practice any of the American holidays as a group. 
Thanksgiving probably receives the most recognition from 
Muslims as a holiday. Christmas and Easter are tied closely to 

islam and the Muslim World 

4 3 

American Culture and Islam 

Christianity and therefore unacceptable. The national holi- 
days such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day have not 
had any official recognition except in the American Society of 
Muslims under the leadership of Imam Muhammad. Patri- 
otic symbols such as the flag and patriotic rhetoric are largely 
absent from mosques and Muslim gatherings, except again 
for Imam Muhammad's organization. However, this is slowly 
changing, especially after the terrorism attacks of 1 1 Septem- 
ber 2001. Many national Muslim advocacy groups have ex- 
tended Fourth of July greetings, and the Islamic Society of 
North America displayed American flags on their platform 
during their annual conference. Individual Muslims do ob- 
serve some of these holidays: Some have family dinners with 
turkey on Thanksgiving and even fewer have Christmas trees 
and let their children trick-or-treat on Halloween. 

Muslim perception of American culture. The vast major- 
ity of Muslims recognize the good of American culture — 
political and religious freedom, self-reliance, and business 
practices — but they are critical of aspects of American cul- 
ture, especially the moral laxity in sexual mores, and alcohol 
and drug consumption. In one study over one-third (37%) of 
Muslims agreed that America is immoral, while over half 
(54%) disagreed. Mosque leaders are even more disturbed: 67 
percent agree that America is immoral compared to 33 
percent who disagree (Bagby). 

The Muslim community is virtually unanimous in believ- 
ing that Muslims should be involved in the civic and political 
life of America — 93 percent of Muslims (Zogby) and 89 
percent of mosque leaders (Bagby) agree that Muslims should 
be involved in politics. Isolation from American society is 
firmly rejected. Yet a large portion of American Muslims feel 
that Muslims are unwelcome in the public sphere: 57 percent 
of Muslims believe that the attitude of America toward 
Muslims is unfavorable since 1 1 September 2001 (Zogby); 56 
percent of mosque leaders feel that American society is 
hostile to Islam (Bagby). 

Influences of Islam on American Culture 

Muslims and Islam are no longer invisible in America — they 
have been given recognition and, in some respects, accept- 
ance by major shapers of culture. 

Presence of Islam. President Ronald Reagan was one of the 
first U.S. presidents to mention mosques alongside churches 
and synagogues as part of the religious fabric of America. 
Mention of Muslims with the other religions is commonplace 
now, especially after President George W. Bush visited a 
mosque and pronounced Islam a religion of peace soon after 
the terrorism attacks of 1 1 September. Iftar (meal at the end 
of the fasting day) dinners at the White House during 
Ramadan have become regular occasions since the mid-1990s. 

Perception of Muslims in the media. Movies have been less 
kind to Muslims and Islam. Ugly stereotyping of Muslims 
and Arabs in particular has a long history in Hollywood. Jack 

Shaheen has estimated that only 5 percent of movies that 
include Muslims or Arabs show a human image of them. 
Since the late 1970s the image has been that of terrorists — 
from Black Sunday (1977) to Iron Eagles (1986) to The Siege 
(1998). Nevertheless signs of change have appeared as some 
of the more positive images of Muslims and Islam in movies 
have appeared in the 1990s — Robin Hood Prince of Thieves 
(1991), 13th Warrior (1999), and Three Kings (1999). 

Negative stereotyping is reflected in the poor approval 
rating for Muslims in the American public, although signifi- 
cant changes have occurred since 1 1 September 2001. Before 
11 September2001 the public's approval of Muslims hovered 
around 2 5 percent, but ironically with President George W. 
Bush's strong endorsement of mainstream Islam, approval 
ratings shot up to a high of 47 percent in October 2001 but 
have since begun to dip (Waldman and Caldwell). 

Sufism. The most popular Muslim poet in America is Rumi 
and with this popularity has come some appreciation for 
Sufism. Sufi groups starting with Hazrat Inayat Khan's Sufi 
Order in the West in the early 1900s and more recently a 
group led by Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani has had moderate 
success in attracting Americans, largely white. Although Sufi 
groups are a small percentage of the total Muslim population 
in America, their more positive image has translated into 
greater acceptance in certain circles of intellectuals and 
New Agers. 

African American community. While Islam might have 
been invisible in Caucasian America, the impact of Islam on 
African American peoples has been substantial. The Nation 
of Islam (1930-1975), although a heterodoxical movement 
within Islam, still brought the idea of Islam to millions of 
African Americans. Malcolm X, who left the Nation of Islam 
to embrace a more mainstream understanding of Islam, is 
an icon in African-American history. The minister Louis 
Farrakhan, who resurrected the Nation of Islam in 1979, has 
maintained great popularity in the African-American com- 
munity, especially among its youth. Imam W. Deen Muham- 
mad has garnered much respect due to his interfaith efforts. 
In light of this history, Islam has signified black pride and 
militancy for African Americans. 

Muslims have also played a key role in the 1990s effort to 
bring about a gang truce throughout the nation. Louis 
Farrakhan and Imam Jamil Al-Amin (former H. Rap Brown) 
were active in the gang summits that started in 1 992 to broker 
a cease-fire between the rival gangs known as the Bloods and 
the Crips. The decline in gang violence through the 1990s 
can be linked to these gang truces. 

African American culture. Islam has also impacted African 
American culture. One obvious manifestation is the adoption 
of Muslim names, undoubtedly an influence of the celebrities 
and sports figures who are Muslim or have Muslim parents — 
Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Ahmad Rashad, Tupoc 


islam and the Muslim World 

Americas, Islam in the 

Shakur, and others. From the 1970s to the present, the names 
Jamal, Kareem, Ah, and Rashad have become popular African 
American names. One of the top African American female 
names is now Aaliyah, obviously the result of the popularity 
of the singer by the same name. 

Other cultural manifestations occur in the hats and garb of 
African Americans, especially when they want to express their 
black consciousness. Through the influence of the large 
number of Muslims in prisons, the impact of Islam might also 
be detected in popular African American culture in the baggy 
pants look and even in hugging among men, which is now a 
common form of greeting. The fact that major gangs call 
themselves "nations" can also be seen as an influence by the 
black nationalism of the Nation of Islam. 

Hip-Hop. In entertainment Islam has had a tremendous 
impact on hip-hop culture. The ideology of the Nation of 
Islam and the Five Percenters, both heterodoxies within 
Islam, have had the greatest influence, but some rappers have 
been influenced by mainstream Muslim leaders such as Imam 
Muhammad and Imam Jamil Al-Amin. Public Enemy and 
Chuck D, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane, and 
Sister Souljah are just a few names that mention in their lyrics 
Minister Farrakhan or the ideas of the Nation of Islam and 
the Five Percenters. Other rappers such as Mos Def, Q-Tip, 
Everlast, Styles of Beyond, Devine Styler, and Jurassic 5 have 
roots in the mainstream Muslim community. A few rap 
groups such as Native Deen market themselves exclusively to 
the Muslim community. 

Communication. Muslim youth and certain Muslim groups 
have enthusiastically embraced the Internet. Major Web sites 
exist for news, information, books, and Islamic resources, 
such as,,, and Web sites of Muslim Student Associa- 
tions are also numerous and full of useful information and 
resources. Muslims who are on the fringes of mosques and 
Muslim organizations are the most active in the use of the 
Web. Muslim women in particular have benefited immensely 
from the presence of a cyber-sisters community. Ideological 
groups are also quite active on the web. Many Muslims 
sometimes bemoan the proliferation of these sites and the 
emergence of the cyber mufti who have few links to the 
Muslim community. Many mosques, however, are far behind 
the curve — many do not have computers and others do not 
use them for communication. 

See also Americas, Islam in the; Farrakhan, Louis; 
Malcolm X; Muhammad, Warith Deen; Nation of 


Bagby, Ihsan; Perl, Paul M.; and Froehle, Bryan T. The 
Mosque in America: A National Portrait. Washington, D.C.: 
Council of American-Islamic Relations, 2001. 

Curtis IV, Edward E. Islam in Black America: Identity, Libera- 
tion, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought. 
Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002. 

Eck, Diana L. A New Religious America: How a "Christian 
Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse 
Nation. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2001. 

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Esposito, John L. Muslims on 
the Americanization Path? New York: Oxford University 
Press, 2000. 

McAlister, Melani. Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. 
Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000. Berkeley: Univer- 
sity of California Press, 2000. 

McCloud, Aminah Beverly. African American Islam. New 
York: Routledge, 1995. 

Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a 
People. New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001. 

Smith, Jane I. Islam in America. New York: Columbia Univer- 
sity Press, 1999. 

Waldman, Steven, and Caldwell, Deborah. "Americans' Sur- 
prising Take on Islam: A New Poll Shows That Ameri- 
cans Have Not Turned Anti-Islam." Beliefnet. 9 Janu- 
ary 2002. 
9732.html (2 Februrary 2003). 

Zogby International and Project Maps. "American Muslim 
Poll (Nov/Dec 2001)." Project Maps. 19 December 2001. 
http:// (2 Febru- 
ary 2003). 

Ihsan Bagby 


The Islamic presence in pre-Columbian times is a point of 
contention, with some writers asserting that Arab and West 
African Muslims settled in the Americas between the elev- 
enth and the fourteenth centuries; others dispute these asser- 
tions, citing a lack of archaeological and other historical 

The undisputed spread of Islam in the Americas started in 
the early sixteenth century with the arrival of a small number 
of Moriscos (Muslims forced to adopt Christianity who may 
have maintained their faith in secret) from Spain, and mil- 
lions of enslaved West Africans. It is estimated that 15 to 20 
percent of the twelve to fifteen million Africans deported 
through the Atlantic slave trade were Muslim. Their prayers, 
fasts, refusal of pork and alcohol, circumcision, collecting of 
zakat, mosques, Qur'anic schools, and importation of Qur'ans 
from Africa and Europe have been documented for countries 
as diverse as Peru, Brazil, the United States, Jamaica, Trini- 
dad, Guyana, and Cuba. Manuscripts written in Arabic have 
been recovered in several countries, most notably in Bahia, 
Brazil, where Muslims from Nigeria led a series of revolts 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Andalus, al- 

between 1807 and 1835. There is evidence that the African 
Muslims succeeded in converting both enslaved and free 
people to Islam, and accusations of Islamic proselytism among 
Native Americans surfaced in the sixteenth century. West 
Africans maintained Islam in America during four centuries 
of slavery, but could not transmit the religion to the genera- 
tions who were born in the Americas. With the end of the 
international slave trade in the late 1860s, Islam disappeared 
as an overtly practiced religion among people of African 
descent. However, cultural and linguistic traces remain today. 

In the nineteenth century, Islam emerged again in the 
Americas with the arrival of Asian and Arab Muslims. After 
the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1834, 
Muslim indentured laborers from India were introduced to 
Trinidad and Guyana, along with the much larger numbers of 
Hindus. Between 1890 and 1939 the Dutch brought inden- 
tured Muslim workers to Dutch Guiana (Surinam) from their 
colony in Indonesia. They now represent 75 percent of the 
Muslim population of Suriname, the country with the highest 
percentage of Muslims (about 25%) in the Americas. 

By the end of the nineteenth century, religious and politi- 
cal unrest, along with economic transformations in the Otto- 
man Empire, led to the emigration of Syrians and Lebanese, 
who established themselves throughout North and South 
America. Among them was a minority of Muslim Lebanese 
and Syrians who migrated, concentrating their settlements in 
Brazil — which counts the largest Muslim population in Latin 
America — Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada. In 
South and Central America most were traders, while in 
Canada, the majority were farmers. 

In the twentieth century new Muslim populations settled 
in the Americas. After World War I, a small number of 
followers of the Indian-founded Ahmadiyya sect settled in 
South America and the Caribbean; and Albanians and 
Yugoslavs migrated to the Canadian prairies. Palestinians 
started to arrive after 1948 and again, in successive waves, 
following the Middle Eastern wars of 1967 and 1973. 

Today, Islam continues to spread throughout the Ameri- 
cas through the natural growth of the existing Muslim popu- 
lation, conversions, and continued immigration from Muslim 
nations. Statistics are unreliable, but there are an estimated 
1.4 million Muslims living in Latin America and the Car- 
ibbean, 253,000 in Canada, and about 6 million in the 
United States. 

See also American Culture and Islam; United States, 
Islam in the. 


Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved 
in the Americas. New York: New York University 
Press, 1998. 

Kettani, M. Ali. Muslim Minorities in the World Today. Lon- 
don: Mansell Publishing Limited, 1986. 

Sylviane Anna Diouf 


Al-Andalus is the geographic term used to denote those areas 
of modern Spain that came under Muslim control in the 
Middle Ages. Today, the term (Spanish, Andalucia) refers to a 
particular territory located in southern Spain. Al-Andalus or 
Muslim Spain (both terms will be used interchangeably), with 
its famous mosques, irrigated gardens, developments in po- 
etry, philosophy, and science, is often referred to as the 
cultural golden age of Islam. The actual Muslim presence 
there lasted 781 years (711-1492 c.e.) and its influence on 
everything from architecture to science is still palpable. For 
the sake of convenience, what follows is divided into three 
parts: history and main developments, cultural achievements, 
and the Jews of al-Andalus. 

History and Main Developments 

Prior to the arrival of the Muslims, Spain was under the 
control of the Visigoths, who maintained firm control of the 
region with the help of a rigid church hierarchy. In 7 1 1 , Arab 
and Berber forces, under the leadership of Tariq b. Ziyad, 
defeated the Visigothic King Rodrigo at the River Barbate. 
The Arab armies tried to move as far as France but were 
eventually repelled in 732 by Charles Martel. During the first 
decades after 711, al-Andalus functioned as a frontier outpost 
with the Umayyad caliph in Damascus appointing its gover- 
nor. Around the year 750, however, a dynastic struggle in the 
East led to change in rule from the Umayyads to the Abbasids. 
Significantly, in 756, an Umayyad prince by the name of 'Abd 
al-Rahman I arrived in Spain. He was able to gain sufficient 
political support there, thereby creating an independent and 
sovereign state, referred to as the Marwanid dynasty, based in 

The high point of the Marwanid dynasty occurred during 
the rule of Abd al-Rahman III, who reigned for fifty years 
(912-961). This coincided with a period of stability after he 
had subdued revolting factions and stopped the advances of 
the neighboring Christians — something his predecessors had 
been unable to accomplish. He was also responsible for the 
construction of the monumental royal city, Madinat al- 
Zahra 5 , just outside of Cordoba. Under his rule, Cordoba 
became a true cosmopolitan center, rivaling the great cities of 
the Islamic East and far surpassing the capitals of Western 
Europe. After the death of Abd al-Rahman III, the central 
caliphate gradually fragmented into a number of smaller 
kingdoms (tawa'if sing., ta'ifa), ruled by various "party kings" 
(muluk al-tawa'if). 


islam and the Muslim World 

Andalus, al- 

The history of al-Andalus in the eleventh-century is one 
of gradual diminishment as various Christian monarchs at- 
tempted to encroach upon the area held by the Muslims, an 
area that they felt compromised the national and religious 
unity of Spain. This reconquering (Spanish, Reconquista) 
became so vigorous that the various Muslim kingdoms had no 
choice but to seek help from the Almoravids, a dynasty based 
in North Africa. The result was that al-Andalus, for all intents 
and purposes, lost its independence, becoming little more 
than an annex of a government situated in North Africa. 

In 1 147, the puritanical Almohades, another dynasty based 
in North Africa, invaded Spain. This dynasty was determined 
to put an end to the religious laxity that they witnessed among 
the Andalusian intellectual and courtier classes. They de- 
manded, inter alia, the conversion of all Christians and Jews 
to Islam. It was during this period that many Jews left Spain: 
the majority went north to Christian territories. According to 
some modern commentators, the Almohade invasion sig- 
naled the end of one of the most fascinating and eclectic eras 
of world history. 

By the thirteenth century, al-Andalus was essentially com- 
prised of Granada and its immediate environs. Here the 
Nasrid dynasty, with its royal palace in the al-Hamra 5 
(Alhambra), ruled as quasi-vassals of the Christian king. The 

Alhambra, with its open courts, fountains, and irrigated 
gardens, is today one of the best preserved medieval castles in 
Europe. In 1492, under the leadership of King Ferdinand of 
Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, the Reconquista was 
completed. All those who were not Christian (i.e., Muslims 
and Jews) were expelled from Spain. 

Cultural Achievements 

From a cultural and philosophical perspective, the achieve- 
ments associated with the inhabitants of al-Andalus are 
unrivalled. The Marwanid capital, Cordoba, alone had over 
seventy libraries, which encouraged many great architects 
and scientists to settle there. The caliphs and rich patrons, in 
turn, established schools to translate classical philosophic and 
scientific texts into Arabic. Although the center at Cordoba 
gradually fragmented into a number of kingdoms, there 
nevertheless ensued a rich intellectual, cultural, and social 
landscape that was grounded on the notion of adab, the polite 
ideal of cultured living that developed in the courts of 
medieval Islam. The adab (pi., udaba 1 ) was an individual 
defined by his social graces, literary tastes, and ingenuity in 
manipulating language. 

One of the main developments within Andalusian litera- 
ture was the muwashshah. The mmvashshah, which seems to 
have originated in the ninth century, is a genre of stanzaic 

islam and the Muslim World 


Andalus, al- 

poetry whose main body is composed in classical Arabic with 
its ending written in vernacular, often in the form of a 
quotation (kharja). The main themes were devoted to love, 
wine, and panegyric; eventually, this genre proved popular 
among Sufis (e.g., ibn Arabi). The muwashshah was also 
a popular genre among non-Muslims, especially among 
Hebrew poets. 

Al-Andalus is also associated with some of the most 
famous names of Islamic intellectual history. Unlike the great 
majority of philosophers in the Muslim East, the overarching 
concern of Andalusian Islamic thinkers was political science. 
Questions that they entertained were: What constitutes the 
perfect state? How can such a state be realized? What is the 
relationship between religion and the politics? And, what 
should the philosopher, who finds himself in an unjust state, 
do? Another important feature of Islamic philosophy in al- 
Andalus was an overwhelming interest in intellectual mysti- 
cism, which stressed that the true end of the individual was 
the contact (ittisal) between the human intellect and the 
Divine Intellect. 

Philosophy in al-Andalus reached a high-point with Ibn 
Bajja (d. 1139). His Tadbir al-mutawahhid (Governance of the 
solitary) examines the fate of a lone individual who seeks truth 
in the midst of a city that is concerned primarily with financial 
gain and carnal pleasures. Such an individual must, according 
to Ibn Bajja, seek out other like-minded individuals and avoid 
discussing philosophy with non-philosophers. Ibn Tufayl (d. 
1 185) picks up this theme in his philosophical novel Hayy ibn 
Yaqzan. The goal of this work is to show that the unaided 
human intellect is capable of discovering Truth without the 
aid of divine revelation. Ibn Tufayl, according to tradition, 
was also responsible for encouraging the young Ibn Rushd (d. 
1198) to write his commentaries on the works of Aristotle. 
Within this context, Ibn Rushd wrote not one but three 
commentaries to virtually the entire Aristotelian corpus. 
These commentaries, in their Latin translations, were the 
staple of the European curriculum until relatively recently. 

Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, was also a prominent feature 
of the intellectual and cultural life of al-Andalus. In fact, one 
of the most important Sufis, Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), was born in 
Murcia in southeastern Spain. After a mystical conversion as a 
teenager, he set out on a life of asceticism and wanderings. 
Ibn Arabi essentially interpreted the entire Islamic tradition 
(jurisprudence, the Qur'an, hadith, philosophy) through a 
mystical prism. 

The Jews of al-Andalus 

The culture of al-Andalus would also have a tremendous 
impact on non-Muslim communities living there. The adab 
ideal (mentioned in the previous section) proved to be very 
attractive to the local population (both Jewish and Christian), 
who adopted the cosmopolitan ideals of Islamicate culture, 
including the use of Arabic. Within the history of Jewish 
civilization, al-Andalus (Hebrew, ha-Sefarad) holds a special 

place. Legend has it that the Jews not only welcomed, but also 
physically helped, the Muslims conquer the oppressive Visigoth 
rulers. The cooperativeness of the Jews and their ability to 
integrate into Andalusian Arab society subsequently created 
an environment in which Jews flourished. Arabic gradually 
replaced Aramaic as the language of communication among 
Jews: By adopting Arabic (although they would write it in 
Hebrew characters, and today this is called Judeo-Arabic), 
Jews inherited a rich cultural and scientific vocabulary. It was 
during the tenth century, for example, that Jews first began to 
write secular poetry (although written in Hebrew, it em- 
ployed Arabic prosody, form, and style). 

The names of famous Jews who lived in al-Andalus reads 
like a "who's who" list of Jewish civilization. Shmuel ha- 
Nagid (993-1055), for example, became the prime minister 
(wazir) of Granada. His responsibilities included being in 
charge of the army (i.e., having control over Muslim soldiers), 
in effect becoming one of the most powerful Jews between 
Biblical times and the present day. His poetry recounting 
battles is among the most expressive of the tradition. The fact 
that a Jew could attain such a prominent position within 
Muslim society reveals much about Jewish-Muslim relations 
in Spain. Other famous Hebrew poets included Moshe ibn 
Ezra (d.l 138) and Judah Halevi (d.l 141), whose sacred po- 
etry is still part of the Jewish liturgy. Al-Andalus was also the 
birthplace of the most famous Jewish philosopher: Moses 
Maimonides (d.l 2 04), who attempted to show the compati- 
bility between religion and philosophy by arguing that the 
former was based not on superstition, but rational principles. 

In sum, al-Andalus was not only a region, but also repre- 
sented a way of life that Muslims and Jews look back at with 
fondness. With its rich contributions to science, literature, 
architecture, and interfaith relations, al-Andalus played a 
prominent role in Islamic history. 

See also European Culture and Islam; Judaism and 


Ashtor, Eliayahu. The Jews of Moslem Spain. Philadelphia: 
Jewish Publication Society of America, 1973-1979. 

Brann, Ross. The Compunctious Poet: Cultural Ambiguity and 
Hebrew Poetty in Muslim Spain. Baltimore, Md.: Johns 
Hopkins University Press, 1991. 

Ibn Arabi. Sufis of Andalusia: The Ruh al-quds and al-Durrat al- 
fdkhira of Ibn 'Arabi. Translated by R. W. J. Austin. 
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. 

Ibn Bajja. Tadbir al-mutawahhid/El regimen del solitario. Edited 
and translated by Miguel Asm Palacios. Madrid: n.p., 1946. 

Ibn Tufayl. Hayy ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale. Translated 
by Lenn E. Goodman. Los Angeles: Gee Tee Bee, 1983. 

Kennedy, Hugh. Muslim Spain: A Political History of al- 
Andalus. London: Longman, 1996. 


islam and the Muslim World 


Menocal, Maria Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; and Sells, 
Michael, eds. The Literature of al-Andalus. Cambridge, 
U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 

Watt, W. Montgomery. A History of Islamic Spain. Edin- 
burgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965. 

Aaron Hughes 


The word "angel" appears frequently in the Qur'an, having 
entered the Arabic language (in pre-Islamic times) as a loan 
from Aramaic or Hebrew, possibly via Ethiopic, and so 
indicating Christian as well as Jewish cultural influences. In 
any case the word has always been accepted as an exact 
equivalent of the Greek angelos, angel or messenger, used in 
pre-Christian times to define the functions of certain "mes- 
sengers of the gods" such as Hermes or Iris (the rainbow). 
The remarkable homogeneity of "Abrahamic" Jewish/ 
Christian/Islamic angelology cannot convincingly be traced 
to a "Mosaic" source but derives very obviously from 
Zoroastrian influences on Judaism during the Babylonian Exile. 

Despite the unanimity of the Qur'an, hadith, and sunna 
on the doctrine of belief in angels, a certain ambiguity arises 
when these beings are considered in both theology and 
metaphysics. How precisely does angelic nature situate itself 
between earth and heaven, between human and divine? It 
may be said that monotheism simply cannot do without a 
means of immanence, lest the gulf of God's transcendence 
end by severing all possible relations between the two levels 
of reality. Put simply, the angels provide a third term, a 
metaphorical bridge or ladder between earth and heaven. 
Thus the Prophet spoke of each raindrop having its angel, 
and of the angels as messengers bearing God's revelation to 
humans, and human prayers to God. The task of angelic 
theology consists in justifying this metaphysical "need" with- 
out detracting from God's ominipotence and unity. 

The standard Islamic angelology is based on both Qur'anic 
and extra-Qur'anic tradition; for instance "the Spirit" (al- 
ruh) is mentioned in the Qur'an, but is identified by tradition 
with Metatron, the Jewish angel "nearest to the Throne." 
The angel of death is mentioned (Q. 32:11) but not named; 
tradition knows him as c Izra'il. Jibril (Jibra'il) (Gabriel) is 
named three times, Mika'il (Mikal) (Michael) once. Israfil, 
who will blow the trumpet at Resurrection, appears neither in 
the Qur'an nor hadith, but became very popular — and sym- 
bolically necessary to form a quaternity of great archangels, 
under the Spirit and above the countless ranks of the heavenly 
host. Munkar and Nakir, the angels who weigh or question 
the souls of the dead in their graves, are likewise absent from 
canonical sources but much discussed by established authori- 
ties and universally accepted by believers. The following 
might represent a traditional Islamic angelography: 

From the soles of his feet to this head, Israfil, angel of the 
Day of Judgment, has hairs and tongues over which are 
stretched veils. He glorifies Allah with each tongue in a 
thousand languages, and Allah creates from his breath a 
million angels who glorify Him. Israfil looks each day and 
each night toward Hell, approaches without being seen, and 
weeps; he grows thin as a bowstring and weeps bitter tears. 
His trumpet or horn has the form of a beast's horn and 
contains dwellings like the cells of a bee's honeycomb; in 
these the souls of the dead repose. 

Mika'il was created by God five thousand years after 
Israfil. He has hairs of saffron from his head to his feet, and his 
wings are of green topaz. On each hair he has a million faces 
and in each face a million eyes and tongues. Each tongue 
speaks a million languages and from each eye falls seventy 
thousand tears. These become the Kerubim who lean down 
over the rain and the flowers, the trees and fruit. 

Jibra'il was created five hundred years after Mika'il. He 
has sixteen hundred wings and hair of saffron. The sun is 
between his eyes and each hair has the brightness of the moon 
and stars. Each day he enters the Ocean of Light 360 times. 
When he comes forth, a million drops fall from each wing to 
become angels who glorify God. When he appeared to the 
Prophet to reveal the Qur'an, his wings stretched from the 
East to the West. His feet were yellow, his wings green, and 
he wore a necklace of rubies or coral. His brow was light, his 
face luminous; his teeth were of a radiant brightness. Between 
his two eyes were written the words: "There is no god but 
God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God." 

The angel of death, 'Izra'il, is veiled before the creatures 
of God with a million veils. His immensity is vaster than the 
heavens, and the East and West are between his hands like a 
dish on which all things have been set, or like a man who has 
been put between his hands that he might eat him, and he eats 
of him what he wishes; and thus the angel of death turns the 
world this way and that, just as men turn their money in their 
hands. He sits on a throne in the sixth heaven. He has four 
faces, one before him, one on his head, one behind him, and 
one beneath his feet. He has four wings, and his body is 
covered with innumerable eyes. When one of these eyes 
closes, a creature dies. 

In part from Greek philosophy, especially neo-Platonism, 
Islamic tradition elaborated a cosmic angelology based on the 
celestial Spheres — as for instance in the many versions of the 
Prophet's mir'aj or Night Ascension into the Heavens, where 
he learns the ritual of prayer from the angels in their ranks. 
He is at first carried by the Buraq, a strange hybrid of mule, 
angel, woman, peacock, and then accompanied by Jibra'il. 
Even this greatest angel, however, cannot accompany Mu- 
hammad to "the Lote Tree of the Farthest Limit" (that is, the 
beatific vision of theophany). This symbolizes the theological 
premise that angels, although more perfectly spiritual than 
humans, are in fact ontologically less central. God orders the 

islam and the Muslim World 



This Persian miniature depicts Adam among the angels. According to the Qur'an, God demands 
that the angels worship Adam, even though they are closer to the divine than Adam is. When the 
angel Iblis refuses to bow to Adam, Iblis falls from God's grace and becomes Satan. © ReuNioN des 
MuseES Nationaux/Art Resource, NY 

5 0 

islam and the Muslim World 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

angels to bow and worship Adam (in a legend probably 
adapted from the heretical Christian "Adam and Eve Books") 
even though Adam is created of clay and the angels of 
light. The angel Iblis refuses to acknowledge the divine in 
the human, and thus falls from grace and becomes Satan. 
(The sufi al-Hallaj therefore praised Iblis as the only true 
monotheist!) As an angel Iblis should be "made of light, but 
in some versions he is described as a great jinni and therefore 
of a fiery nature. The jinni constitute a different class of 
supernatural beings, also attested in the Qur'an; some of 
them were converted to true faith by Solomon or Muhammad 

'Abd al-Karim al-Jili (a Sufi influenced by Ibn 'Arab!) 
describes the angelic Spheres thus: The first heaven is that of 
the Moon. The Holy Spirit is here, "so that this heaven might 
have the same relation to earth as spirit to body." Adam 
dwells here in silvery-white light. The second heaven is that 
of Mercury (identified with the Egyptian Hermes and the 
prophets Idris and Enoch). Here the angels of the arts and 
crafts reside bathed in a gray luminousness. The third heaven, 
that of Venus, is created from the imagination and is the 
locale of the World of Similitudes, the subtle forms of all 
earthly things, the source of dreams and visions. The prophet 
Joseph lives here in yellow light. The heaven of the Sun is 
created from the light of the heart; Israfil presides over a host 
of prophets in a golden glow. The heaven of Mars, of the 
death-angel Tzra'il, is blood-red with the light of judgment. 
That of Jupiter is blue with the light of spiritual power 
(himma) and is lorded over by Mika'il. Here reside the angels 
of mercy and blessing, shaped as animals, birds, and men; 
others appear, in Jili's words, "as substances and accidents 
which bring health to the sick, or as solids and liquids that 
supply created beings with food and drink. Some are made 
half of fire and half of ice. Here resides Moses, drunk on the 
wine of the revelation of lordship." The seventh heaven (first 
to be created from the substance of the First Intelligence) is 
that of Saturn, and consists of Black Light, symbolic oifana', 
annihilation in the divine Oneness. 

The grandeur of this cosmic vision is given a metaphysical 
dimension by the Persian philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna) 
who, speaking of the angels, says, "The soul must grasp the 
beauty of the object that it loves; the image of that beauty 
increases the ardor of love; this ardor makes the soul look 
upward. Thus imagination of beauty causes ardor of love, 
love causes desire, and desire causes motion" on the level 
both of the Spheres (which are drawn in love toward their 
Archangel-Intellects) and of human souls (who are drawn in 
love toward their guardians or personal angels). 

On the fringes of Islamic orthodoxy such mystical 
angelology shaded into occultism. Elaborate concordances of 
angelic correspondences, names, powers, symbols, and the 
like evolved out of the late classical synthesis (e.g., those 
described in the Egyptian Magical Papyri). Amulets were 

constructed, evocations and seances performed. Like their 
medieval and Renaissance counterparts in Europe, Islamic 
hermeticists sought and practiced the "angelic conversation." 
At its highest level of sophistication this magical angelology 
aims at no benefit other than existential participation in the 
divine or angelic consciousness. "By philosophy man realizes 
the virtual characteristics of his race. He attains the form of 
humanity and progresses on the hierarchy of beings until in 
crossing the straight way (or 'bridge') and the correct path, he 
becomes an Angel" (Brethren of Purity [Risalat al-jami c ahj). 

An artistic representation of Muhammad's ascent to heaven 
appears in the volume one color plates. 

See also Mi c raj; Religious Beliefs. 

Corbin, Henry. Avicenna and the Visionary Recital. Translated 
by Ralph Manheim. Princeton, N.J . : Princeton University 
Press, 1969. 

Hallaj, Mansur. The Taivasin. Translated by A. A. at- 
Tarjumana. Berkeley, Calif: Diwan Press, 1974. 

Rumi, Maulana Jalaluddin. The Mathnawi. Translated by 
Reynold A. Nicholson. London: Luzac & Co., 1978. 

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Angels. London: Thames & Hud- 
son, 1980. 

Peter Lamborn Wilson 


The term "Arabia" has been variously applied in both modern 
and ancient times to refer to a vast territory stretching from 
the borders of the Fertile Crescent in northern Syria to the tip 
of the Arabian Peninsula and from the borders of the Euphrates 
to the fertile regions of the Transjordan. For the ancients, 
this vague term, "Arabia," referred to the dwelling places of 
the varieties of South Semitic speakers lumped together 
under the term "Arab." For speakers of Hebrew and Aramaic, 
the term Arab ('arab) carried the semantic notion of the desert 
or the wilderness {'arabah), since the Arabs they encountered 
were primarily the nomadic and seminomadic desert dwellers 
engaged in long-distance commerce, animal husbandry, or 
supplying cavalry troops to imperial armies. The result is that 
ancient textual references to Arabia and its inhabitants, the 
Arabs, are both inconsistent and imprecise in terms of geo- 
graphic boundaries, ethnic identity, and language use. The 
meager textual evidence available to us shows us that many of 
the northern Arabs used Aramaic and Hebrew as well as 
varieties of Arabic in pre-Islamic times. After the rise of 
Islam, however, the Arabic of northwest Arabia, the region of 
the Hijaz, became the dominant language of the Arabs, and it, 
along with its cognate dialects, formed the Arabic known today. 

isfam and the Muslim World 

5 1 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

Location of Christianity, Judaism, the Makkan religion and 
Zoroastrianism in pre-lslamic Arabia. XNR Productions/Gale 

The geography and natural ecology of the Arabian penin- 
sula has affected both the culture and the history of Arabia. It 
is bounded in the north by a desert of soft sand, the Nafud, as 
well as a desert in the south, the Rub' al-Khali, the so-called 
Empty Quarter. Both the Red Sea on the west and the Gulf 
on the east are barriers to entry with few natural ports. There 
are no permanent water-courses in Arabia and only scattered 
oases in the interior. The ancient geographers used the term 
natura maligna for Arabia, and even when using Arabia Felix, 
"Happy Arabia," for the south, they intended some irony. Its 
average rainfall is less than three inches per year, and much of 
that falls within a period of just four or five days. Because of 
the forbidding landscape and the harsh climate, for much of 
Arabia's history, it resisted successful invasion. Such harsh 
conditions, however, have provided refuge for those fleeing 
persecution and those seeking the economic opportunities of 
long-distance trading. Trade was assisted because Arabia was 
the home of the domestication of the West Asiatic camel, the 
dromedary, and the invention, around the beginning of the 
first millennium c.e., of the North Arabian camel saddle, 
which enabled camels to be used for cavalry warfare as well as 
for transporting trade goods. 


Historical knowledge of Arabia goes back to the Greek 
historian Herodotus, to a few Akkadian texts, and to the 
Bible, but sound historical records only come from the period 

of Roman domination of the eastern Mediterranean. Much 
legendary material has influenced the writings of the early 
history of Arabia, particularly the biblical legends, which hold 
that the Amelikites were the first "Arabs." This legend is 
adopted by Arabs themselves, who link themselves to the 
Israelite soldiers who annihilated the Amelikites and settled 
in the Hijaz in their stead. R. Dozy and D. S. Margoliouth 
elaborated a secularized version of the biblical legends to 
make Arabia the Semitic prototypical home and Arabic the 
prototypical Semitic language. Associated with this theory is 
the so-called desiccation theory of Arabia, which holds that 
Arabia was lush and verdant in prehistorical times, only 
becoming dry later, driving out the Semitic inhabitants into 
the Mediterranean basin. While modern geological explora- 
tion of Arabia has substantiated a shift in climate in the 
peninsula from more wet toward dry, there is no evidence to 
substantiate any of the theories that Arabia was the original 
home of the Semites or that all Semitic languages derive 
from Arabic. 

According to a report that combines inscriptional evi- 
dence and legend, Arabia was the temporary capital of 
Nabonidus (556-539 b.c.e.), the last ruler of Babylon. In the 
third year of his reign, he invaded the Hijaz as far as Yathrib 
(Medina), and dominated the famous Arabian caravan cities 
in the northwest quadrant. Some scholars see his motives as 
economic, while others dismiss the historicity of the whole 
event as part of a Jewish midrashic invention. 


Among the important pre-lslamic peoples of Northwest 
Arabia were the Nabataeans, who, by the time of the arrival of 
Roman imperial presence in the eastern Mediterranean, 
dominated the region's trade from around Damascus to the 
Hijaz. They had been pastoral nomads who had settled in 
their heartland around Petra. The Nabataeans plied their 
trade through the areas of Transjordan, across the Wadi 
'Arabah to Gaza and al-'Arish (Rhinocolura). There is also 
evidence that they used the interior route of the Wadi Sirhan 
to carry goods to Bostra for distribution to Damascus and 
beyond. Nabataean wealth and influence attracted the Romans 
into an unsuccessful invasion of Arabia in 26 b.c.e. un- 
der the leadership of Caesar Augustus's Egyptian prefect, 
Aelius Gallus. The Nabataeans were able to resist Roman 
domination until 106 c.e., when Arabia Nabataea became a 
Roman province. In later history, the name "Nabataean" 
became identified with irrigation and agriculture, because the 
Nabataeans are credited with the development of hydraulic 
technology in the region. In modern Arabic, "Nabataean" 
(nabati) refers to vernacular poetry in the ancient style. 

Most modern historians regard the Nabataeans as Arabs, 
but the picture is more complex and illustrative of the prob- 
lems of ethnic identification in the pre-lslamic period. The 
Nabataeans were philhellenes, using Greek art and culture, 

5 2 

islam and the Muslim World 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

and Aretas III issued coins with Greek legends after 82 b.c.e. 
They used a form of Arabic as their language for trade within 
the Arabian peninsula, writing it down in a modified Aramaic 
script that influenced the development of the North Arabian 
alphabetic script. They acted as a culture-bridge between the 
Arabian interior and the Roman Hellenized Mediterranean, 
and, depending on who was reporting, they could present a 
different face to different peoples, Greek, Aramaic, or Arabic. 

Jews had been inhabitants of Arabia from biblical times, 
but the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 c.e. sent 
larger numbers into Arabia. Around this time the apostle Paul 
spent time in Arabia after his conversion to Christianity, 
possibly to recruit converts, as did another Pharisee, Rabbi 
Akiba, who went to Arabia to obtain support for Simon Bar 
Kochba in the Second Roman War in 132 c.e. Some Jews 
formed independent communities in Arabia, such as the small 
enclaves of priests, who kept themselves isolated to avoid 
ritual contamination so that they would be ready under 
Levitical strictures to resume their duties if the Temple 
should be rebuilt. Most, however, seem to have joined exist- 
ing communities comprised of Jews and non-Jews along the 
trade routes stretching from the Hijaz to Yemen. The most 
prominent of these settlements was the city of Yathrib, 
known in both Aramaic and Arabic as Medina. 

Treasury, Petra, Jordan; built by the Nabataeans between the 
third century b.c.e. and the first century c.e. The Nabataeans were a 
wealthy, important tribe of the pre-lslamic era who had been 
nomadic and then settled around Petra. Their culture bridged 
Arabic and Hellenic cultures, incorporating elements of both. The 
Art Archive 

Roman Arabia 

By 106 c.e., the Romans dominated most of the former 
territories of the Nabataeans and the adjacent Syrian cities of 
Gerasa and Philadelphia (modern Jarash and Amman in 
Jordan), creating a province through the formal annexation of 
the Nabataean kingdom under the Roman emperor Trajan. 
This province, known as Provincia Arabia, was bounded by 
the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula, the present Syrian- 
Lebanese border to a line south of Damascus, and the eastern 
coast of the Red Sea as far as Egra (Mada'in Salih in the Hijaz). 
Gaza prospered as a major seaport and outlet for the prov- 
ince's commerce. This trade continued under Roman domi- 
nation, and the borders were fortified by semipermeable lines 
of fortifications and client states. Under the Romans, Bostra 
(Bozrah; now Busra ash-Sham) in the north became the 
capital around a legionary camp. Petra remained a religious 
center until the penetration of Christianity in the area. The 
construction of a highway, the Via Traiana Nova, linking 
Damascus, via Bostra, Gerasa, Philadelphia, and Petra, to 
Aelana on the Gulf of Aqaba, set the border of Arabia (Limes 
Arabicus) along the lines of an ancient biblical route. Paved by 
Claudius Severus, the first governor of Provincia Arabia in 
about 1 14 c.e., it improved communication and established a 
modicum of control over the influx of pastoral nomads into 
settled territory. More importantly, the road insured the 
increase in prosperity of the cities along the route. 

At the end of the third century, the Roman emperor 
Diocletian divided Arabia into a northern province, enlarged 

by the Palestinian regions of Auranitis and Trachonitis, with 
Bostra as the capital, and a southern province, with Petra as 
capital. The southern province, united to Palestine by the 
emperor Constantine I "the Great," became known as 
Palaestina Salutaris (or Tertia) when detached again in 357 
and 358 c.e. The cities of both provinces enjoyed a marked 
revival of prosperity in the fifth and sixth centuries and fell 
into decay only after the Arab conquest after 632 c.e. 

During the period in which the Judaean Desert finds were 
deposited in the caves, the area containing the discovery sites 
remained off the main conduits of trade and communication, 
and it is their remoteness that, for the most part, provided 
their value as retreats from the demands of the central settled 
world. The practice of using the Judaean Desert caves as 
genizot, religious treasuries, continued from the time of the 
Roman Wars through as late as the eleventh century c.e. The 
presence of Byzantine Greek and Arabic texts indicates that 
the local populations both knew of the existence of the caves 
and made use of them as depositories for important docu- 
ments. This fact has had important implications in discus- 
sions about the presence of copies of the "Damascus Covenant" 
found in the Cairo Genizah. None of the texts found at the 
Judaean Desert discovery sites mentions Provincia Arabia or 
other geographic terms associated with Arabia. The texts, 
particularly the texts from the Byzantine and Islamic periods, 
indicate that the inhabitants of the region, who deposited the 
finds, were well connected not only with Palestine but also 
with Egypt and the larger world of the Mediterranean. 

islam and the Muslim World 

5 3 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

Southern Arabia 

The southern portion of Arabia, known generically as the 
Yemen, had ancient connections with Africa, India, and the 
Far East, as well as the Mediterranean. It was culturally and 
linguistically connected with the Horn of Africa. Among the 
theories of the Arabian origin of the Semites, some have cited 
the presence of speakers of a Semitic language unlike Arabic 
in Yemeni highlands. Additionally, the relationship between 
South Arabian and Ethiopic languages points to continuous 
contacts between the two areas. Attempts, however, to devise 
a comprehensive ethnographic categorization of the inhabi- 
tants of Arabia have so far failed. This is in part due to 
problems with categorization itself (what is a Semite, for 
example) and in part due to the paucity of evidence. Relying 
on Arabian histories and indigenous theories of ethnography 
are problematic, because all were written after the rise of 
Islam, which advances the religious notions of the family 
relationship among all Arabs and promotes the elaboration of 
the explanation of that relationship through genealogy. The 
so-called Table of Nations from Genesis 10 was invoked by 
early Islamic scholars, and the figures of Joktan, Hazarmaveth, 
and Sheba are identified with Qahtan, Hadramawt, and the 

An increasing amount of archaeological and inscriptional 
evidence support the meager and legendary historical mate- 
rial surrounding the histories and influence of at least four 
major kingdoms in southern Arabia, the Sabaeans, or king- 
dom of Sheba; the Minaeans; the kingdom of Qataban; and 
the kingdom of Hadramawt. These kingdoms were sup- 
ported by a combination of trade and agriculture. Elaborate 
aqueducts, dams, and terracing helped sustain these king- 
doms as well as giving evidence of their ability to marshal 
considerable resources for their construction and mainte- 
nance. We do not know the reasons for the demise of these 
kingdoms. The Qur'an (34:15-16) attributes the breaking of 
the dam at Ma'rib in the kingdom of the Sabaeans as divine 
retribution for their sins. Secular theories attribute the de- 
mise of organized agriculture in the southern region to the 
combined factors of the repeated breaking of dams and 
waterworks and the rise of the influence of Ethiopia in 
southern Arabia. 

It is probably from the time of the breaking of the Ma'rib 
dam that some southern Arabian tribes migrated north, 
intermixing with the Arabs of the Hijaz in many places, 
including the city of Yathrib/Medina. This migration may 
also be linked with increasing economic opportunities in the 
northern part of Arabia resulting from the domestication of 
the camel, the invention of the North Arabian camel saddle, 
and the increasing use of camel cavalry forces in the armies of 
the Roman and Persian empires. 

Premodern Arabia possessed little arable land, but south- 
ern Arabia was the habitat for frankincense and myrrh, the 
aromatic resins from conifers found in Arabia and the Horn 

of Africa. Because southern Arabia was the home of those 
much-sought-after aromatics and the trans-shipment point 
for Asian and African trade goods, including slaves, it was a 
much-desired location for colonies and extensions of em- 
pires. These products were sought as luxury trade-goods 
from as early as Old Kingdom Egypt, when this was known as 
the land of Punt. They were used for funerary and liturgical 
ceremonies, often in large quantities. The use of frankincense 
is attested in the biblical offerings mentioned in Leviticus 
2:14-16 and 24:7, and also in the Talmud as a medicine and a 
painkiller. In Christian liturgy, incense was an important part 
of the celebration of the mass. Trade in aromatics, gold, and 
luxury items from Africa and India made the west coast of 
Arabia the conduit to the Mediterranean and linked southern 
Arabia with the settled areas of Syria. 

Knowledge of Persian interest in Arabia begins with 
Darius I (r. 52 1-485 b.c.e.). He sent an exploratory expedition 
from India to the Red Sea, probably to increase trade. 
Greek interest was stimulated first by Alexander the Great 
and Nearchus of Crete, but Alexander died in 328 b.c.e., 
just before executing plans to conquer the peninsula. This 
interest prompted the Greek naturalist and philosopher 
Theophrastus (c. 372-287 b.c.e.) to describe South Arabia, 
providing one of the earliest historical accounts. The Ptolemies 
of Egypt, successors to Alexander's rule, pursued ambitions in 
the Red Sea. The Syrian Seleucids promoted the use of the 
northern routes to India, probably in an attempt to diminish 
Egyptian and Arab domination of eastern luxury goods. The 
establishment of the Parthian state in the mid-third century 
b.c.e. weakened the Seleucids, but Antiochus III was still 
strong enough to conduct an expedition in 204 and 205 
against Gerrha on the Arabian shore of the Persian Gulf. 

In the second and first centuries b.c.e., major changes took 
place in the economy and power of the southern kingdoms of 
Arabia. The Mediterranean world learned the secret of the 
use of the monsoon trade winds to navigate to India, and 
mountain tribes began invading the settled kingdoms. By the 
end of the first century b.c.e., the Sabaean kingdom was under 
the rule of the tribe of Hamdan, and the kingdoms of Ma'in 
and Qataban were destroyed. Roman attempts to conquer 
Arabia Felix failed, but Rome's influence was extended first 
through the Nabataeans and later through Egyptian and 
Ethiopic Christianity. 

Sometime around 50 ce., an anonymous author wrote the 
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an account in Greek of the 
ethnography and trade in the Red Sea. In the middle of the 
second century ce., the geographer Claudius Ptolemy (fl. 
127-151 ce.) wrote a detailed description of Arabia from the 
perspective of Roman interests in the region. While some 
scholars identify some sites mentioned by Ptolemy with 
modern Arabian cities, like Macoraba as Mecca and Yathrippa 
as Yathrib/Medina, others discount this identification and 
claim that knowledge of ancient Arabia cannot be derived 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

from from the Greco-Roman sources. In the case of the 
identification of Yathrippa as Yathrib, there is inscriptional 
support, however, from a Minaean inscription, where Ythrib 
is found. The general picture from these sources is that an 
active culture of trade and agriculture linked Arabia with 
Africa, South Asia, and the East Mediterranean world. 

Arabia Between Two Empires 

By the middle of the third century c.e., religious and political 
competition between the Roman empire and the new Persian 
Sassanian empire had intensified with Arabia as one of the 
centers of the conflict. Both sides were intent on political and 
economic domination through conversion. For the Romans, 
that meant Christianity, and sometime around 213 c.e., 
Origen visited Arabia, probably at Petra, to bring that area 
into religious and political orthodoxy. In 244 c.e., M. Julius 
Philippus, known as Philip the Arab, acceded to the Roman 
imperial throne, and there is strong evidence that he was a 
Christian. His predecessor, Gordianus III, had defeated the 
second Sassanian emperor, Shapur I (r. 241-272 c.e.), and, 
although he concluded a peace with the Persians, continued 
attempts to control Arabia. The Persians, whose official 
religion was the nonproselytizing Zoroastrianism, used 
Nestorian Christian and Jewish missionaries as their agents 
in Arabia. 

Knowledge of Arabian history from the fourth through 
the beginning of the sixth centuries is meager because of the 
lack of written sources. In part, this is due to the decline of the 
urban centers in Arabia. While Arabia was no less strategi- 
cally important to the two empires during this period, the 
creation of the buffer-states of the Lakhmids on the Sassanian 
side and the Ghassanids on the Roman/Byzantine side pro- 
vided both empires indirect means of controlling the flow of 
goods and traffic into the settled areas. Because the buffer 
states were a main source of camel cavalry, some scholars have 
noted a process of Bedouinization corresponding to the 
decline of urban areas in this period as it became more 
profitable to raise and sell camels. The Ghassanids and the 
Lakhmids mirrored their sponsor-states by engaging in war- 
fare, even when Rome and Persia were ostensibly at peace. 

In the sixth century c.e., conflicts again arose, this time 
through the agency of the Persian-sponsored Jewish state in 
the Yemen under Yusuf Dhu Nuwas and Byzantium's 
Monophysite ally, the kingdom of Aksum. When Dhu Nuwas 
attempted to return Najran to his control, he met resistance 
from armed Christian missionaries, whom he defeated. With 
Byzantine naval support, the Aksumites invaded Arabia, de- 
feated Dhu Nuwas, and established an Abyssinian-ruled cli- 
ent state. Its ruler, Abraha, rebuilt the Ma'rib dam erected a 
cathedral in San'a', and attempted to conquer Mecca. His 
defeat, traditionally in 570 c.e. and recorded in Qur'an 105, 
coupled with an invasion of the Yemen by the Sassanian ruler 
Khusraw I Anushirwan (r. 53 1-579 c.e.), drove the Abyssinians 

from Arabia. The southern portion of Arabia remained under 
Persian control until the rise of Islam. 


Shortly before the birth of Muhammad in 570 c.e., Mecca and 
its environs in the Hijaz rose to historical prominence. In 
part, this view is in retrospect from the vantage of knowing 
that Islam came from there, but it is also in part because the 
dominant Meccan tribe seems to have been able to amass 
some political and economic hold over the region. The tribe 
of Qureish, whose name possibly means "dugong," was likely 
a group of Arabs involved in the Red Sea trade and moved 
inland with the decline of Roman authority in that sea. Their 
rule was both economic and theocratic. Their major shrine 
was the KVba at Mecca, one of several such KVba in Arabia at 
the time. They managed to import the worship of many local 
Arabian deities to Mecca, so that polytheism under the 
Qureish became a kind of federal cult. 

It is difficult to speak with any precision about the native 
polytheism of the Arabs, because almost all of what is known 
comes through hostile Islamic sources. Allah was worshipped 
as a creator deity and a "high god," but the everyday cult 
seems to have been dominated by several astral deities, 
ancestors, and chthonic spirits, such as the jinn. Animal 
sacrifices seem to have been used to propitiate the more than 
three hundred deities mentioned by early Muslim historians. 
Circumambulation of the KVba and other cultic objects was 
also a usual practice, often during "sacred" months of pil- 
grimage to religious sites. Little is known of the theological 
or moral nature of pre-Islamic polytheism in Arabia, and the 
Muslim critique of the pre-Islamic period portrays it as 
devoid of all redeeming features. From the scanty evidence 
available, the cult promoted loyalty to family, clan, and tribe, 
a sentiment that Arabs carried over into the Islamic period as 
Islam was characterized as a "super-tribe" uniting all Arabs 
under one common genealogy. 

While Christianity was present from an early period in 
Arabia, and there is evidence of the political connections and 
dimensions of Arabian Christians to their coreligionists in the 
surrounding countries, little is known of Arabian Christian 
beliefs and practices except through Islamic sources. Qur'anic 
evidence indicates that, while the full range of Gospel narra- 
tives is not represented, the Qur'an represents particularly 
the Gospel of Luke quite accurately and with close read- 
ings. Recent scholarship in this area is challenging the ear- 
lier notions that the Qur'an portrayed only a heterodox 
form of Christianity and is pointing to a more mainstream 
pre-Islamic Christianity, albeit divided among the various 
Christological heresies of the day. 

As seen from the above survey of Arabian history, religion 
among the pre-Islamic Arabs was closely tied to the political 
ambitions of several foreign powers that wished to dominate 
Arabia. At the time of the rise of Islam, converting to one of 

islam and the Muslim World 


Arabia, Pre-lslam 

The ruins of the Mar'ib Dam, created circa the sixth century b.c.e. in Mar'ib, Yemen, by the Sabaens, one of four major kingdoms of southern 
Arabia to predate Islam. Aqueducts and dams were an important part of the Sabaeans's infrastructure and rise to power. Secular historians 
have postulated that the decline of pre-lslamic kingdoms may have had to do with the breakdown of their dams and aqueducts; the Qu'ran 
attributes the destruction of the Mar'ib Dam to divine punishment of the Sabaeans's sins. The Balaq mountains are in the background. 
© Archivo Iconocrarco, S.A./Corbis 

the varieties of Judaism or Christianity in Arabia meant 
choosing not only a religion but also a political and social 
agenda dominated by a foreign power. 

Literary Legacy 

One of the major legacies of pre-lslamic Arabian culture to 
later Arab and Islamic culture was the development of the 
poetic and formal language often termed "classical" Arabic. 
In the century or century and a half before the birth of 
Muhammad in 570 c.e., the Arab tribes in the Hijaz devel- 
oped a literary form of Arabic that stood alongside the various 
dialects. This was a composite, formal language with a highly 
inflected grammatical system. It also had a flexible system for 
generating new vocabulary based on extensive use of the 
Arabic verbal root system that allowed for easy adoption of 
new terms and concepts within the language itself. It was also 
open to the adoption of terms from the surrounding lan- 
guages of Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, Ethiopic, among others. 
As a "meta-language" it undoubtedly reflected the growing 
political expansion of the Qureish and their economic unifi- 
cation of the Hijaz, but it also seems to have grown from the 
common experiences of local religious practices, Bedouin 

travel songs, and the panegyrics of the courts of the Arab 
dynasties along the borders of the Roman and Persian empires. 

There is also speculation that this language was used for 
formal prose in treaties, formal agreements, and in writing 
Jewish and Christian scripture, but, as mentioned above, 
there is little evidence of biblical translations into Arabic in 
the pre-lslamic period. Instead, there is more evidence that 
Jews and Christians had their own "dialects" of Arabic, with 
added vocabulary from the Jewish and Christian languages of 
the eastern Mediterranean. These dialects likely served as the 
conduits for much of the foreign religious vocabulary that 
found its way into Arabic. 

The poetry that has survived from the pre-lslamic period 
was transmitted orally and only transcribed in the Islamic 
period. It was composed by a poet to be preserved and recited 
by a reciter, a rami, who may also have been a poet or an 
apprentice. In this poetry, each poetic line had independent 
meaning, and the entire poem was comprised of thematic 
sections, which concentrated on travel, love, praise, and so 
on. The most famous of these "odes," termed qasidas, are 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabia, Pre-lslam 

known as the Mu'allaqat, or "suspended odes." Various sto- 
ries are given to explain the name, but the writers of these 
poems became known as the masters of Arabic poetic compo- 
sition, and their style of poetry so influential that later Islamic 
poetry in Persian and other Islamic languages as well as 
Arabic survived until modern times. 

The style of poetry known as saf, rhymed prose, was 
another influential poetic form, apparently used by seers and 
holy men for prognosticative pronouncements. This form of 
poetic language is found in many places in the Qur'an, giving 
rise to the accusation that Muhammad was a poet or man- 
tic seer. 

A photo of an alabaster relief of a camel and its rider appears in 
the volume one color plates. 

See also Arabic Language; Arabic Literature; Asabiyya; 
Empires: Sassanian; Muhammad. 


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Gordon D. Newby 


A people with the name of Aribi is first mentioned in a 
cuneiform inscription from the eighth century b.c.e., where it 
denotes a nomadic tribe. In later centuries tribes named 'rb 
are mentioned in several sources, for instance in the Torah 
(Jeremiah 25:24). It is not known what kind of language these 
people spoke but it is clear that they had some connection 
with the North Arabian desert, even though they did not 
dwell in the Arabian Peninsula itself. Probably their language 
belonged to the continuum of Semitic languages that was 
spoken all over the Middle East and that included Aramaic, 
Hebrew, Canaanite, and others. 

The full penetration of the Arabian Peninsula dates from a 
later period. In the southern part of the peninsula the South 
Arabian kingdoms such as those of the Minaeans and the 
Sabaeans flourished from the thirteenth century b.c.e. on- 
ward. Their language was South Arabian, a language related 
to the Ethiopian languages. They had domesticated the 
camel, which was used for carrying loads but not yet as a 
riding animal. The South Arabians maintained frequent trade 
relations with the Middle East, usually by the sea route, and 
through these contacts the camel was introduced in the north 
as well. Around the beginning of the common era when a 
riding saddle was developed for the camel, it became possible 
to penetrate the desert and even live there permanently. 
Presumably, some of the tribes that wandered in the border 
area between sedentary land and the desert fringe eventually 
made the shift to a nomadic life in the desert and thus 
developed what may be called a Bedouin society. 

In the northern part of the peninsula thousands of (usually 
short) inscriptions attest to the presence of a language that 
was very much akin to the Arabic language as it is known 
today. This language was characterized by the form of the 
article, h- or hn-, as distinct from the Arabic article al-, but 
related to the Hebrew form ha-. This language type is usually 
called Early North Arabic; it was divided into several varieties 
such as Thamudaean and Lihyanitic. The first inscription in a 
language that may be recognized as Arabic is the inscription 
from al-Namara in Syria (328 c.e.) erected by Imru' al-Qays 
who calls himself "King of the Arabs." The language shows 

some similarities with the South Arabian of the South Ara- 
bian kingdoms, while at the same time preserving the traces 
of its relatedness to the Northwest Semitic languages. 

Around the fifth century Arabic-speaking tribes lived in 
large parts of the Arabian peninsula as well as in the areas to 
the north of the peninsula as far as the Syrian desert and the 
Sinai; some of them even settled in sedentary areas such as the 
city of Aleppo. These tribes were Christians. The Bedouin 
tribes in the peninsula were polytheists. They greatly in- 
creased their influence when they took over the caravan trade 
from the South Arabian kingdoms and settled themselves as 
middlemen in places like Mecca. 

The al-Namara inscription is written in a language with a 
declensional system, similar to the language of the pre- 
Islamic poems. It was in this language that the Qur'an was 
revealed. According to the indigenous tradition all tribes at 
the eve of Islam used this language as their vernacular 
language, although later grammarians document a number of 
differences between the varieties of the various tribes (lughat). 
Thus, for instance, the eastern tribes are said to have used a 
phoneme /'/ (hamza), which was absent in the dialect of the 
western tribes, but present in the language of poetry and the 
Qur'an. According to others the vernacular language of the 
tribes had already shifted to a different type of language, in 
which, for instance, case-endings had disappeared. In this 
view, the language of poetry and the Qur'an was a literary 
language that was no longer used as a spoken language but 
served as a kind of supra-tribal variety, based on the language 
of the eastern tribes (sometimes called poetico-Qur'anic koine). 

The Spread of the Arabic Language 

After the death of the prophet Muhammad the Islamic 
conquests brought the religion and the language of the Arab 
tribes into a large area stretching from Islamic Spain to 
Central Asia. The languages originally spoken in this area 
(Coptic, Persian, Syriac, Berber) gave way to the linguistic 
onslaught of Arabic, and even though some of the speakers 
remained bilingual, the entire area was Arabized within a 
century. The Arabic as spoken by the inhabitants of this vast 
empire differed considerably from the language of the Qur'an, 
especially in the sedentary centers that were established in the 
early years of the conquest, such as Basra, Kufa, Fustat, and 
Kairouan. There was a reduction of the phonemic inventory 
(loss of interdentals, merger of the phonemes dad and za'), 
loss of case-endings and modal endings, reduction of gram- 
matical categories, and emergence of a genitive exponent and 
aspectual particles. Syntactically speaking, the language had 
shifted from a synthetic to an analytic type, usually called 
New Arabic. 

There are many theories about the reasons for this change, 
which affected all domains of grammar. Those who believe 
that even before Islam the vernacular language of the Bed- 
ouin already exhibited some New Arabic changes tend to 
minimize the role of the new learners of the language. They 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabic Language 

believe the various vernaculars of the Bedouin were homog- 
enized when members from different tribes were thrown 
together in the conquering armies. As a result, the vernacular 
varieties that emerged after the conquests became very differ- 
ent from the language of the Qur'an. Others look for the 
cause of the linguistic changes in the languages spoken by the 
inhabitants of the conquered territories. According to them, 
this substratal influence affected the structure of New Arabic 
by carrying over features of languages such as Coptic, Per- 
sian, Syriac, and Berber to the Arabic language, as spoken by 
its new speakers. Yet another factor to be taken into account 
is the process of language acquisition itself. In every language- 
learning process in an informal setting the native speakers 
tend to simplify their language and the new learners apply 
universal strategies of simplification to this input. The result 
is a drastic reduction of the phonemic inventory and of 
grammatical categories, a general disappearance of redun- 
dancy, and a restructuring of the language. 

Whatever the causes of the linguistic changes, there can 
be no doubt that very early on in the conquests there was a 
marked difference between the language of the religious and 
literary heritage on one hand, and the colloquial speech of the 
Arab empire on the other. According to the classic descrip- 
tion of this situation by Ibn Khaldun, the scholars of Arabic 
became concerned about this corruption of speech and started 

to codify the language in their grammar books lest the 
language of the holy scriptures become incomprehensible for 
later generations. 

The original conquest was just the first stage in the 
Arabization process since it reached only the sedentary areas, 
in particular the new garrison towns established by the Arab 
armies. Later centuries brought successive waves of Bedouin 
migrants to the conquered territories. These were responsi- 
ble for the Arabization of much larger areas. In some cases 
they re-Bedouinized the sedentary dialects of the cities. In 
Baghdad, for instance, the dialect of the Muslims became 
Bedouinized while the Christians and Jews retained the 
original sedentary dialect. In North Africa the second wave of 
migration is associated with the invasion of the Bedouin 
tribes of the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym in the tenth and 
eleventh centuries c.e., which brought Arabic to large parts of 
the countryside. 

There is no consensus about the language these Bedouin 
spoke. Those who maintain that the vernacular of the Bed- 
ouin tribes in the pre-Islamic period had already changed in 
the direction of New Arabic believe that there was not much 
difference between the dialects of the first and the second 
invasion. Others believe that the Bedouin tribes continued to 
speak a type of Arabic that was basically identical with the 

islam and the Muslim World 


Arabic Language 

pre-Islamic Arabic of poetry and Qur'an. In this view, the 
Bedouin did not lose their speech until the fourth century of 
the Hijra (Islamic calendar). This is corroborated by the 
grammarians who explain that the Bedouin dialects became 
corrupted through exposure to the sedentary way of speaking. 

Arabic in Islamic Society 

At the beginning of Islam, Arabic became the language of 
both private and public life in the Arab empire. During a 
transitional period the indigenous languages remained in use, 
for instance in Egypt where Greek and Coptic were used for 
administrative purposes along with Arabic. But at the end of 
the first century of the Hijra, Arabic was firmly established as 
the official language of the empire. The languages that used 
to be spoken in the conquered territories disappeared or 
remained in use in a restricted domain only, such as Coptic 
and Syriac. In the Arab West, Berber remained in use in the 
countryside and has indeed never been replaced completely 
by Arabic until the present day. 

The codification of standard Arabic by the grammarians 
started during the second century of Islam, but even before 
that there must have existed some kind of norm in writing, 
possibly connected with the emergence of an epistolary style 
in the chancelleries. The earliest Arabic documents, the 
Egyptian papyri from the first century of the Hijra, already 
contain "mistakes" that show the existence of a standard as 
target in writing. Such mistakes are very common and with 
the growth of literacy they became even more frequent. In 
modern linguistic terminology texts containing deviations 
from the grammatical norms of the standard language are 
usually called "Middle Arabic." This term does not denote a 
well-defined variety of the language but is used as a general 
label for all nonstandard texts. Some of the mistakes reflect 
the vernacular language, for instance, when people write la 
yaktubu "they do not write" rather than the more formal la 
yaktubuna, but very often one encounters pseudo-corrections, 
when people in their attempt to write standard Arabic over- 
step their target, for instance when they write lam yaktubuna 
"they did not write" instead of lam yaktubu. The introduction 
of vernacular features in written language could also serve to 
create a humorous effect. This occurs particularly in litera- 
ture aiming at a popular audience, such as the stories in the 
Arabian Nights or in dialect poetry. 

The acceptance of deviations from the norms was particu- 
larly strong in non-Muslim circles. Jewish and Christian 
writers, who did not have the same attachment to the lan- 
guage of the Qur'an, felt free to use a more popular kind of 
language. Thus we find Jewish writers using certain vernacu- 
lar constructions when writing to fellow Jews, but studiously 
avoiding these when writing for a more general Muslim 
audience. One might even say that this kind of Arabic became 
an in-group language with a special status. This Judaeo- 
Arabic was written in Hebrew characters and contained a 
large number of Hebrew loanwords. 

Arabic remained the language par excellence of the Islamic 
empire for well over five centuries, until the Mongol con- 
quest of Baghdad in 1258. Even in Mamluk Egypt, where the 
political and military elite consisted of Turkic-speaking peo- 
ple, Arabic continued to be regarded as a language of prestige. 
Mamluk intellectuals used it in writing, even though Qipcaq 
Turkic was their colloquial language. In the East the position 
of Arabic as a religious, cultural, and administrative language 
started to change from the tenth century onward. Middle 
Persian, the language of the Persian empire, had become 
marginalized after the conquests, but New Persian (Farsi) 
became popular as the language of poetry in the ninth 
century. The dynasty of the Samanids reintroduced it as the 
language of the court, and in the sixteenth century the Safavid 
dynasty started to use it as the new "national" language of 
Iran. As a result, the spreading of Islam in South and South- 
east Asia took place in Persian, particularly when the Moguls 
began to use it as their literary language. In the Islamic East, 
Arabic was retained solely as the language of the Qur'an, 
Persian having become the language of preaching, literature, 
and administration. 

With the advent of the Turkic peoples Arabic gradually 
lost its position in the Islamic West as well. In the Seljuk 
Empire and later in the Ottoman Empire the language of 
administration became Ottoman Turkish, while Persian was 
the language used by the intellectual elite for cultural pur- 
poses. Arabic was relegated to the domain of religion, al- 
though it continued to serve as a source for thousands of 
loanwords in both Persian and Turkish, ranging from learned 
words such as mo c allem "teacher" in Persian and akide "dogma" 
in Turkish to common words such as ve- 'and' in both 
languages. Yet, when the Arab world became integrated in 
the Ottoman Empire, spoken Arabic was treated as a minor 
provincial language and its written variety was only used for 
religious purposes. Even though most inhabitants of the Arab 
provinces did not know Turkish, official contacts with the 
empire had to take place in that language. 

The nineteenth-century Arab renaissance (Nahda) brought a 
change in the self-awareness of the Arabs and the position of 
Arabic. In Egypt, Muhammad c Ali initiated a movement to 
translate European writings into Arabic. In its wake a new 
idiom was created to convey the new ideas, and the language 
was modernized through the introduction of a host of new 
terms in the fields of the technical sciences, economics, and 
politics. Once again, Arabic became a language in which 
political and administrative issues were discussed. 

The fall of the Ottoman Empire signified a new beginning 
for Arabic but the simultaneous invasion of the colonial 
powers introduced a new danger to the language. Because of 
the military and cultural dominance of the English and the 
French the attitude toward Arabic was often a negative one. 
After the Arab countries gained their independence Arabic 
became the official language of most of these countries and 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabic Language 

the symbol of Arab nationalism. In the Mashreq, it did not 
take long before English was replaced by Arabic, but in the 
formerly French-dominated countries it took decades before 
the French language had disappeared from the administra- 
tive, educational, and legal systems. 

Fusha and c Ammiyya 

The contemporary linguistic situation in the Arab world is 
characterized by diglossia, in which two varieties of the 
language have strictly separate roles or functions in the 
speech community. The so-called High variety, called fusha 
or al-arabiyya, is the language learned at school as the carrier 
of a rich religious and literary heritage; it is the language that 
is used in writing, both in the educational system and the 
media, and in formal speech. The Low variety, called c ammiyya 
or in North Africa darija, is the colloquial language, which is 
the mother tongue of all speakers. It is the language of 
everyday communication, the language of friends and family, 
the language of informal speaking. 

The coexistence of two varieties of the language is not 
without its problems. Since the standard language is learned 
at school, only those who are literate have access to the 
written production. For the vast majority of the population 
the formal language is not immediately comprehensible so 
that a large part of linguistic communication in the commu- 
nity is beyond their linguistic competence. The two varieties 
have quite different associations, the standard language being 
associated with education and therefore with social success 
and wealth, whereas the vernacular is associated with illiter- 
acy and poverty. At the same time, its function as the language 
of informal talk makes it the symbol of in-group communica- 
tion, whereas the standard language is seen as a stereotyped 
and distanced means of communication. 

Language choice between standard and vernacular de- 
pends on a number of factors such as the person of the 
interlocutor, the topic being spoken about, and the setting of 
the speech act. By their language choice speakers express 
their attitude toward these factors, their evaluation of the 
situation and the interlocutor. Since language variation is not 
a matter of choice between two discrete varieties, but takes 
place on a continuum between the highest standard and the 
lowest vernacular, there are endless possibilities of language 
choice. Such linguistic behavior is often indicated with the 
term of code-mixing. Since the span of the continuum attain- 
able for the individual speaker directly depends on the degree 
of literacy, most people may be said to have only a relatively 
small variation at their disposal. But even the best educated 
speakers are unable to extemporize in standard Arabic and 
inevitably mix vernacular elements in their speech. 

Because of its symbolic value as a binding element for 
all Arabic-speaking peoples language choice is intimately 
connected with Arab nationalism. The fusha is the symbol 
of Arab unity, whereas the vernacular dialects stand for 

divisiveness and regionalism (iqlimiyyd). It is widely believed 
in the Arab world that during the colonial period the Euro- 
pean powers intentionally propagated the study and the use of 
the dialect in order to divide the Arab world. Even today, 
Western interest in dialectology is still regarded as a manifes- 
tation of neo-imperialism. This creates a problem for Arab 
politicians who wish to show their adherence to the ideals of 
Arab nationalism but at the same time their strong ties with 
the population. Politicians like Jamal c Abd al-Nasser made a 
skillful use of the language variation by mixing standard and 
vernacular in their political speeches. The connection with 
the standard language is especially strong in those countries 
that emphasize their role in the Arab nationalist movement. 
The different attitudes toward Arab nationalism correlate 
with the attitude toward the vernacular. In those countries 
where Arab nationalism is part of the dominant ideology the 
use of standard Arabic is emphasized and attempts to replace 
it with the vernacular are met with severe criticism. 

The attitude toward the dialect is not wholly negative, 
however. In a country such as Egypt the 'ammiyya may be said 
to hold a special position. Because of the pride they take in 
their country Egyptians are also proud of the Egyptian 
dialect, and although they share with other Arab countries the 
mistrust toward the imperialists who used the dialect to 
further their own interests and although in Egypt, too, the 
fusha holds a special prestige position, the use of the dialect is 
widespread even in situations where in other countries it 
would be unthinkable to use dialect. Thus, Egyptian presi- 
dents are never averse to using partly Egyptian dialect in their 
political speeches — at least for internal use; in their contacts 
with other Arab countries they tend to switch to standard 
Arabic. Since the Egyptian film industry and more recently 
the television soaps have gained enormous popularity outside 
Egypt, knowledge of this dialect in other Arab countries is 
widespread and many speakers of other dialects are familiar 
with Egyptian. 

In North Africa the linguistic policies of the French have 
left unmistakable traces. After independence there was a class 
of intellectuals who only knew French and could not commu- 
nicate in Arabic. The first decades after gaining indepen- 
dence were therefore characterized by a movement toward 
Arabization, the replacement of French by Arabic in domains 
such as administration and education. Several school reforms 
were needed before at least primary and secondary schools 
adopted Arabic as the main medium of instruction. Even 
today French/ Arabic bilingualism in North Africa is wide- 
spread and French has retained a special position of prestige. 
In particular among intellectuals the mixing of French and 
Arabic in franco-arabe has remained popular. 

In the Levant, Syria, and Lebanon became independent 
from French colonial rule with a somewhat different out- 
come. In Syria, French never took hold the way it did in the 

islam and the Muslim World 

6 1 

Arabic Language 

Maghreb. In Lebanon, however, bilingualism was connected 
with a widespread feeling, both among Muslims and Chris- 
tians, that Lebanon was a bicultural country. The civil war 
has changed this situation in the sense that Arabic-French 
bilingualism has become associated more exclusively with the 
Christian community. 

Arabic as a World Language 

After the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 71 1 c.e., 
the influence of the Arabic language spread beyond the 
borders of the Islamic world. Due to its role as the language in 
which Greek philosophy and science were transmitted, Euro- 
pean scholars came to regard Arabic as the language of 
culture and scholarship. A large amount of translations of 
Arabic texts circulated in Western Europe, and through the 
contact with Arab culture in al-Andalus many loanwords, 
such as algebra, zero, algorithm, alchemy, sugar, artichoke, apri- 
cot, and admiral, entered the European languages. This inter- 
national role of Arabic ended with the Renaissance when 
Western Europe rediscovered the Greek sources and no 
longer needed Arabic as an intermediary. 

Nowadays, Arabic is spoken as a mother tongue outside 
the Arab world in a number of linguistic enclaves, such as 
Anatolian Arabic in Turkey, and tiny pockets of speakers in 
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Cyprus. Malta is a differ- 
ent case altogether. Here, the Maltese language, written in 
Latin characters, has become the only Arabic dialect with the 
status of a national language. The Maltese, who are Chris- 
tians, tend to deny the connection of their language with the 
Arabic-speaking world and prefer to regard the language as a 
remnant of the Phoenician language. 

Apart from these enclaves, large numbers of Arabs have 
migrated outside the Arab world (mahjar). In the Americas, 
early immigrants came mostly from Lebanon and Syria. Most 
of them were merchants, who assimilated without difficulty 
to their new countries, especially in Latin America. Most of 
them retained Arabic and in countries such as Brazil and 
Argentina they even managed to establish a thriving literary 

The immigration of speakers of Arabic to western Europe 
has a different background. In the early 1960s the western 
European countries started to hire unskilled laborers from 
the Mediterranean countries on a large scale. The original 
plan was to hire these people for a restricted period of time 
and then remigrate them to the countries of origin. Soon it 
became apparent that they were there to stay. As a result the 
western European countries suddenly realized that they had a 
sizable Arabic-speaking minority. In most of these countries 
the official policy of the government consisted in providing 
education in the home language of the immigrants' children. 
Nonetheless, many children of the second and third genera- 
tion are losing their language of origin and shifting to the 
dominant language. In most cases they go through a lengthy 

period of code-switching in which they mix their home 
language and the language of the country they are living in. 

The main role of Arabic outside the Arab world is that of 
being the language of the Qur'an, even though in many 
regions it was not the language of the Islamic spreading of the 
faith (da c wa). This role was played in the East by Persian, and 
further east by Malay. In Africa, the language in which Islam 
was preached was Hausa or Swahili. Yet, for all Muslims 
Arabic has a special status as the language chosen by God for 
his last revelation. The reverence for this status does not lead, 
however, to intensive study of the language itself. Ordinary 
Muslims in countries such as Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Paki- 
stan, Nigeria, and Senegal do not know more Arabic than a 
few ayahs from the Qur'an, even though in some of these 
countries there is an extensive public or private network of 
Qur'an schools where the text of the Holy Book and the basic 
elements of Arabic are being taught. 

Historically, Arabic functioned in Africa not only as a 
religious language but also as a language of trade. Even before 
West Africa was Islamicized, Arabic was used there as a lingua 
franca between the courts of different kingdoms. This is also 
clear from the loanwords in African languages, which are not 
restricted to the domain of religion but comprise also other 
semantic domains. In Hausa, for instance, such words as 
"book" (littaafi) and "news" (laabaari) derive from Arabic as 
do some conjunctions such as saboo da "because," from Arabic 
sabab "reason." In Swahili something like 30 percent of the 
lexicon is derived from Arabic. Most of these loans were 
introduced by a small class of so-called mallams (Ar. mu'allim 
"teacher") who maintained the ties with Arabic even after the 
trade connections had been severed. 

In Asia, Islam was spread by Persian-speaking traders and 
missionaries. Here the Arabic language was known exclu- 
sively from the text of the Qur'an. Even though the ordinary 
believers did not know Arabic, they became used to some of 
the religious terms through the recitation of the Qur'an. 
Other Arabic words entered the Asian languages through 
Persian, as evidenced by their phonological shape, for in- 
stance, in Urdu hazirin "audience," with Persian z for Arabic 
dad. A further source of borrowing was the written medium. A 
small class of scholars used their pilgrimage to Mecca in order 
to study the Islamic sciences and through their books they 
introduced hundreds or even thousands of loanwords from 
Arabic. It has been estimated that in Malay more than three 
thousand words were borrowed in this way, for instance, the 
word hukum "judgment," which gave rise to the derived verb 
menghukumkan "to pronounce judgment." 

The relatively low level of knowledge of Arabic may be 
changing with the increasing influence of Arabic sites on the 
Internet. In some countries, such as Mali, learning Arabic has 
become quite fashionable among young people. In other 
countries, international Islamic contacts may lead to an in- 
crease in Arabic as the primary language of Islam. 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabic Literature 

See also African Culture and Islam; Arabic Literature; 
Grammar and Lexicography; Identity, Muslim; Pan- 
Arabism; Persian Language and Literature; Qur'an; 
South Asian Culture and Islam; Urdu Language, Lit- 
erature, and Poetry. 


Ayalon, Ami. Language and Change in the Arab Middle East: 
The Evolution of Modern Political Discourse. New York and 
Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1987. 

Bakalla, Muhammad Hasan. Arabic Linguistics: An Introduc- 
tion and Bibliography. London: Mansell, 1983. 

Blau, Joshua. The Beginnings of the Arabic Diglossia: A Study of 
the Origins of Neo-Arabic. Malibu, Calif: Undena, 1977. 

Bulliet, Richard W. The Camel and the Wheel. 2d ed. New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1990. 

Diem, Werner. Hochsprache und Dialekt: Untersuchungen zur 
heutigen arabischen Zweisprachigkeit. Wiesbaden: F. 
Steiner, 1974. 

Ferguson, Charles A. "The Arabic Koine." Language 25 
(1959a): 616-630. 

Ferguson, Charles A. "Diglossia." Word 1 5 (1959b): 325-340. 

Fischer, Wolfdietrich. Grundriss der arabischen Philologie, Vol. 
1: Sprachwissenschaft. Wiesbaden: L. Reichert, 1983. 

Fischer, Wolfdietrich, and Jastrow, Otto. Handbuch der 
arabischen Dialekte. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1980. 

Holes, Clive. Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions and Varie- 
ties. London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 1995. 

Miller, Ann M. "The Origin of the Modern Arabic Sedentary 
Dialects: An Evaluation of Several Theories." Al-Arabiyya 
19 (1986): 47-74. 

Rouchdy, Aleya. The Arabic Language in America. Detroit: 
Wayne State University Press, 1992. 

Versteegh, Kees. The Arabic Language. 2d ed. Edinburgh: 
Edinburgh University Press, 2001. 

Kees Versteegh 


Literature may be defined in numerous ways, but in Arabic 
literature some of the prominent phenomena that are associ- 
ated with the modern concept of literature — individual crea- 
tivity, authenticity of feeling, and fictionality — will not easily 
be detected by an unaware reader. Arabic literature as well as 
other non- Western literatures is firmly rooted in its own 
tradition and can hardly be appreciated otherwise. 

Arabic Literature: Notions and Concepts 

The modern Arabic equivalent for literature is adab, but in its 
traditional context this concept also refers to notions like 

"education," "general knowledge," and "decency." It is de- 
rived from the pre-Islamic da'b (pi. adab) that denotes "good, 
accepted practice." In medieval Arab society adab can prob- 
ably be best compared to the concept of "belles lettres." It 
does not, however, include the most esteemed form of Arabic 
literature of shi'r, or poetry, as a category. 

To understand the status of shi'r, its early development 
within pre-Islamic society has to be discussed. This society 
was divided along lines of families, tribes, and clans. Within 
the clan the prominent social characters were the sayyid 
(chief), the kahin (the soothsayer, expert of the supernatural), 
and the sha'ir, the keeper of earthly knowledge memorized in 
a nonscriptural society. This sha'ir — or "poet" — knew by 
heart the clan's history, the affiliations with other clans, and 
the battle deeds of the clan in skirmishes with other clans. 
Battle cries, invectives of the enemy, and boasting of the hero 
were commonly uttered in poetical form and were memo- 
rized by the poet, in order to be handed down to the next 

In a development for which we have no record, another 
kind of poetry emerged in this pre-Islamic society called the 
qasida (or "ode"). These poems, too, were memorized by the 
poet. In the course of time he started to compose this kind of 
poetry himself. The practice of memorizing and composing 
poetry was a craft that was handed down from one generation 
to next, the poet's apprentice being called rawi or "transmit- 
ter" (pi. ruwat). 

Pre-Islamic Arabic Poetry 

An Arabic poem was composed on the basis of two form 
principles: meter and rhyme. Each poem had a fixed meter 
that could be chosen from the sixteen metrical patterns that 
Arabic prosodical tradition defined, although it has to be said 
that classical poets were mainly using only six of these. 
Contrary to Western metrical tradition, the Arabic meters 
were based on the length of syllables rather then on stress. 
This does not mean that Arabic poetic language knew no 
stress, but it was not the principle for metric scansion. The 
poet is expected to retain the same meter throughout each 
poem he composes, which may run into dozens of verses. 

Apart from this feature, called monometer, the poet uses 
the same rhyme throughout the poem, which is called 
monorhyme. The rhyme cluster is always based on one 
specific consonant accompanied with long or short vowels. In 
the correct rhyme a limited variation of vowels is allowed. 
Each line of poetry is divided into two hemistichs, which 
deceptively makes the poem in print seem like two columns. 

This elaborated form requires a high degree of craftsman- 
ship and it suggests a long evolution, but no sources are 
available for this. It may also seem that in its form Arabic 
poetry is extremely monotonous, but it is often the subtle play 

islam and the Muslim World 

6 3 

Arabic Literature 

between the formal rules, the listeners expectation, and the 
poet's elegant solutions that makes this poetry a vibrant art. 

Pre-Islamic (or pre-classical) Arabic poetry can be divided 
thematically into two groups: short, monothematic poems, 
often "situational" poetry, and long, polythematic poems 
called qasidas. 

Qasida. The qasida is the most prestigious poetical creation 
throughout Arab history. Even nowadays it is deemed the 
ultimate work of artistic achievement of Arab culture. It is a 
tripartite composition that follows a thematic sequence: In 
the nasib the poet — often in a dialogue with his companions — 
recalls his memory of a love affair. To give in to his grief 
meant that the poet broke his self-control (sabr). The imme- 
diate occasion he uses to legitimize this is his coming across 
the remnants of the camp left by the tribe to which his 
beloved belongs. This description is usually vivid and realis- 
tic, although to our modern taste the beloved is hardly 
portrayed as an actual person. 

In the second part of the qasida the poet distances himself 
from this emotional reminiscence by dwelling on his travels 
through the desert, describing his mount and the desert 
environment with its specific fauna irahil). Sometimes this 
second part is very short, condensed to the words da 1 dha: 
"leave that (love affair) behind!" 

The final part of the qasida offers the poet a relative 
freedom in the choice of his theme. He may address the chief 
of a tribe with a panegyric ode (madih), use his poem as a 
warning against an enemy, indulge in boasting on his own 
exploits, or simply offer a vivid description of a natural 
phenomenon like an all-refreshing shower. 

The traditional qasida, its form, and its content, have 
remained influential not only for Arabic literature, but also 
for later developments in Turkish and Persian literature. 

Marthiya. Apart from the qasida another genre adopted this 
prestigious form. From a traditional wailing exclamation, 
probably common to the universal rituals of death, Arab 
women developed a kind of poetic dirge that kept the middle 
between "situational" poetry and the qasida. The marthiya 
was composed in remembrance of a deceased brother, hus- 
band, or father, but it followed the formal (not the thematic) 
requirements of the qasida. The reason for this is that marathi 
were considered poetry of the public domain, inciting to 
blood vengeance in case of violent death and helping to 
reinvigorate social values and the ideal of knightly vigor on 
which women and children depended for their security. 
Contemporary to the early emergence of Islam the poetess al- 
Khansa 3 (d. c. 645) produced a considerable number of such 
dirges on her brothers in which one might read a stance of 
opposition toward the social changes that the new religion 
brought with it against such pre-Islamic virtues as bravery, 
hospitality, generosity, and tribal loyalty. 

Shifting themes and forms. Shortly before the emergence 
of Islam, Arabic poetry underwent a few thematic innova- 
tions: Love poetry gradually became an independent genre, 
introducing the beloved as taking part in a — probably 
fictitious — dialogue. In this period one also finds religious 
poetry reflecting a set of (popular) Christian and Jewish 
monotheistic concepts among the urban class of traders, as 
opposed to pagan worship of natural objects or polytheism 
that were still widespread on the Arabian Peninsula. 

In cases where prestigious poetry was not deemed suit- 
able, other literary forms were in use: The meter rajaz served 
all kinds of "situational" poetry like working songs, invectives, 
obscene poetry, and exhortations. Later this meter was used 
for lengthy didactic poems. 

Rhymed prose (saf) was used for soothsayer predictions 
and enchantments, for folkloric sayings and proverbs, and, 
finally, for the text of the Qur'an. 

Poetry in Early Islam and the Umayyad Era 

The production of poetry subsided remarkably with the 
beginning of Islam. First, the prophet Muhammad's attitude 
toward poetry was ambiguous. He renounced poetry and 
poets when he was accused of being a "poet" himself. A quote 
from the Qur'an runs, "And the poets — the perverse follow 
them; hast thou not seen how they wander in every valley and 
how they say that which they do not," a reference to their 
baseless boasting (Arberry, trans., 26:224-226). On the other 
hand he realized that his status, comparable with that of a pre- 
Islamic chief, demanded the presence of a "court poet" as 
well, in his case the famous Hassan b. Thabit (d. 670). 
Another reason for the declining popularity of poetry may 
well have been the general preoccupation of the new Muslims 
with the expansion and stabilization of the new state. This 
decline in poetic production, however, was only temporary. 
The Umayyad era quickly gave an impetus for new develop- 
ments in Arabic poetry. 

Although the polythematic qasida as the masterpiece par 
excellence never ceased to exist, its parts developed into 
separate kinds of poetry in the Umayyad era. The nasib 
developed into love poetry and the rahil with its descriptions 
of nature into forms of bucolic poetry like descriptions of 
hunting parties and gardens. Together with older poetic 
kinds like wine poetry (khamriyya) and the general topic of 
description (wasf), these parts constituted the plethora of 
themes that a poet from this era could address. 

The dichotomy of early Islamic society, its division into a 
Bedouin and a trader class, becomes clear in love poetry. In 
the nasib-part of the qasida, the beloved is mainly a nonpresent 
entity. She has left with her tribe and all that the poet can do is 
regret her departure and remember their past afair. Follow- 
ing this tradition the 'udhri type of love poetry (named after 
the tribe 'Udhra) creates an even greater division between the 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabic Literature 

poet and his beloved: She becomes the unreachable projec- 
tion of the poet's love from which he can only suffer and then 
whither away from passion. This kind of poetry might best be 
called "idealistic" and it provided Arabic literature with some 
almost mythical love pairs like Majnun and his Layla. 

With the emergence of Islam and the continued ritualistic 
pilgrimage to Mecca, the population in the Hijaz cities like 
Mecca and Medina became gradually more affluent. Once a 
year they provided an intertribal and international forum 
where all Muslims could gather. The huge crowds involved in 
the hajj consisted of both men and women, offering many 
opportunities for both sexes to meet and have affairs. These 
paved the way for the so-called hijazi love poetry, in which the 
poet vividly describes his adventures, and cites extensively 
from (fictitious) dialogues between his beloved's companions 
and her or between the protagonists themselves. As opposed 
to "udhri love poetry, this new development can be called 
"realistic" love poetry. 

In many ways the poetic developments of the Umayyad 
era reflect the development from a tribal society with 
nonhereditary succession to an urban society with dynastic 
power and an affluent court life in which the poet serves to 
embellish the environment of his maecenas. 

Poetry in the Abbasid Era 

The transition from the Umayyad to the Abbasid dynasty and 
the transfer of the seat of the caliphate from Damascus to 
Baghdad can be considered the revolution of the matvali, or 
second- and third-generation converted Muslims who were 
not of Arab origin, but descendants of Persian or Byzantine 
families. Often these families had held high positions in the 
Sassanid kingdom in Persia. 

In the early Abbasid era Arabic poetry consolidated its 
courtly functions. Most poets were in one way or another 
attached to the court, the highest-ranking poets being com- 
panions of the caliphs themselves. 

The bond of Arabic literature with its pre-Islamic, Bed- 
ouin basis became more and more symbolic, although one of 
the greatest poets of this era, Abu Nuwas (d. c. 814), had had 
his poetic training through living with Arab tribes. His 
allegiance to the urban lifestyle motivated his utter contempt 
for those primitive conditions that he expressed in ridiculing 
Bedouin life. His most famous poems are the khamriyyat 
(about drinking scenes) and the mujun, more or less obscene 
poems about (pederastic) love. 

In this poetry by Abu Nuwas and by the later Abu 
Tammam (d. 845), the hijazi tradition of realistic love poetry, 
of the self-confident individual, lives its triumph. The idealis- 
tic c udhri love poetry comes to an end with the late-eighth- 
century poet al- c Abbas b. al-Ahnaf (b. c. 7 50). His courtly love 
poetry has often (but probably not rightly) been interpreted 
as the source of courtly love poetry in the "Toubadours et 

Trouveres" tradition in southern France through Arab-ruled 
al-Andalus (southern Spain). 

The poetry of the Abbasid era provided a huge, sparkling 
collection of love poems, obscene poetry, repentance poetry 
for unbecomely behavior, semi-religious poetry pondering 
mortality, and detailed descriptions of gardens and gadgets in 
everyday life. In short every possible theme that an affluent 
class of intellectuals can think of was represented. The same 
period witnessed the emergence of literary theory and liter- 
ary criticism. Inspired by the "philological" culture that 
Islamic society was (the Qur'an being the verbatim reproduc- 
tion of God's word), both poets and linguists set out to 
explore the possibilities of the Arabic language, a discipline 
that inevitably led to mannerism and far-fetched metaphors 
in poetry. 

Abu Tammam and the ninth-century poet al-Buhturi (d. 
897/898) opposed this tendency by presenting two collec- 
tions of poetry (both called Hamasa: courage) for which they 
selected canonical poetry of the Umayyad and pre-Islamic 

During the tenth century the central authority in Baghdad 
started to lose its grip on some of the outer regions like Egypt 
and Syria. As a consequence local "kings" established their 
own courts and court cultures in which one or more poets 
were essential assets. By this time some poets had reached an 
independent status, so that they could allow themselves to be 
hired by the most bidding party, like the famous poet al- 
Mutanabbi (d. 965) who started his career with Sayf al-Dawla 
(d. 967), ruler of Aleppo, then moved to the court of Kafur in 
Cairo and finally joined the Buwayhid court of c Adud al- 
Dawla (d. 983) in Iraq. This mobility shows how poets had 
gained a role as spokesmen for the rulers of the time, voicing 
the king's greatness and acting as the laureate poets on 
important occasions. 


The downfall of the Umayyad caliphate had caused one of the 
members of the Umayyad family, 'Abd al-Rahman I (d. 788), 
to flee westward to the Iberian Peninsula where he estab- 
lished the kingdom of Cordoba in 752. This marked the 
beginning of Andalusian history, an outstanding period in 
Islamic history. This period is still referred to by Arabs as the 
multicultural "state" par excellence because it meant the 
peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Al- 
Andalus soon disintegrated into petty kingdoms like Toledo, 
Sevilla, and Granada, but this never impeded cultural and 
intellectual progress. Only periods of foreign rule by ortho- 
dox Muslim forces from North Africa could temporarily 
infringe on it, until finally Granada fell to the Spanish 
Reconquista in 1492, the formal end of Andalusian history. 

At the various courts in the main cities of al-Andalus, 
literature reached a remarkable apogee. One of the contribu- 
tions Andalusion poets made to Arabic literature was the 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Arabic Literature 

innovative form of the muwashshah, a poem with a strophical 
structure. It is unclear what the origin of this poem was. 
Certain types of strophic poetry were known in the East by 
the eighth century, but they never reached the level of 
prestigious poetry. The origin of the muwashshah, with its 
rhyme structure divided into stanzas and choruses and its 
idiosyncratic meter, should probably be sought in local 
Romance poetic traditions, probably in songs. This is at least 
suggested by the use of vernacular Arabic, Hebrew, and even 
the local Romance dialect, for instance, in the last verse of 
some muwashshahs, as a kind of humorous clue. 

The Centuries of Decline: Amateur Poetry 

In the classical period the poet was a respected craftsman, 
famous for composing his art in courtly circles. Meanwhile in 
urban society the high status of Arabic-Islamic education, 
with its emphasis on language and the ornate use of it, 
produced an even greater number of literati who were able to 
produce verse at any given occasion. A great number of these 
"occasional" poems concerning every possible aspect of life 
(but often, of course, on the theme of love) are still to be 
found scattered in many 'adab-works on a wide range of 
subjects, often helping to embellish the context. 

It was mainly this class of literati that composed poetry 
between the thirteenth and eigteenth centuries (the qurun al- 
inhitat, or the centuries of decline in Arab culture). It is hard 
to name any famous poets of this period, but recent research 
has shown that poetry probably never stopped to be of high 
quality and originality. This is, however, a period that needs 
more attentive study than it has hitherto received. 

Arabic Prose 

The oldest fragments of Arabic prose are the accounts of 
intertribal skirmishes on the Arab peninsula. These accounts, 
interlaced with poetry, may not be very accurate as a reflec- 
tion of reality, but on the other hand they cannot be regarded 
as fiction. A second prose collection was the Prophet's biog- 
raphy, the sira, which by its nature cannot be considered 
fiction. The structure of these stories — chain of spokesmen, 
followed by the story itself, with short poems in between — 
remains the same in later prose collections. However, the 
context often became more frivolous like in al-Isfahani's (d. 
967) Kitab al-Aghani (Book of songs), a huge collection of 
stories about poets and singers. One should be careful to use 
these for historic purposes because they are of an anecdotal 
character, representing neither pure historical facts nor pure 

Another development within Arabic prose is the abundant 
growth of 'adab literature in the Abbasid era, probably best 
rendered as "belles lettres," the well-wrought discourse for 
which any subject could serve as a topic. Al-Jahiz (d. 868), the 
homo universalis of his time, was the unrivaled champion of 
the genre. 

Apart from these 'adab-works, Arabic popular culture 
knew a strong storytelling tradition, but what remained of it is 
scarce: outlines of heroic adventures and etiologies of per- 
sonal names. 

Bringing the sub-literary storytelling and the 'adab genre 
together was an innovation introduced from outside the Arab 
world, generating "mirrors of princes," like Kalila iva-Dimna, 
an adaptation into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa c (d. c. 760) of the 
original Indian Pancatantra. 

Among the class of the cultural elite in the later Abbasid 
era a unique genre emerged that used rhymed prose as its 
form and was composed following a more or less fixed 
structure with a story of two characters meeting in an urban 
environment without recognizing each other. After a humor- 
ous description of chaos and confusion, recognition occurs 
and all ends in a kind of comical clue. This maqama remained 
popular well into the nineteenth century. With time it be- 
came less bound to its original structure and could be used for 
didactic purposes as well. 

Fiction in the modern sense of the word entered Arabic 
culture with the Arabian Nights, in which the frame story and 
a number of sub-stories are from an Indian-Persian origin 
and enlarged with a number of Egyptian popular stories. 

Modern Arabic Literature 

Normally the entering of the Arab world into modern times is 
identified with Napoleon Bonaparte's temporary occupation 
of Egypt (1789-1801). The obvious difference in culture, 
scientific knowledge, and social structure between the two 
worlds caused Muhammad 'Ali (1769-1849), an Albanian 
officer who freed Egypt from Ottoman rule, to direct his 
attention to the West, mainly France. He sent a mission of 
scholars to Paris to gather scientific knowledge that could be 
translated and applied in Egypt. The witness report of this 
mission, written by al-Tahtawi (d. 1 873), is one of the earliest 
accounts of the new confrontation between East and West. 

Another channel of communication between East and 
West had remained open for much longer: the contacts 
between the Maronite community in Syria and the Roman 
Catholic Church of Rome. This contact was parallelled by 
American-based Presbyterian missionary activities in Lebanon. 
This new phase in Middle Eastern history, known as the 
Nahda (sometimes translated as Renaissance), led to the 
establishment of printing presses and newspapers, to Western- 
style schooling, and to flourishing cultural activities. In the 
field of literature it proved to be less obvious to copy Western 
standards and genres. Arab authors initially tried to use old 
forms, like the maqama, as a substitute for the narrative genre. 
The theme of these regenerated maqamas often had some- 
thing to do with the East- West opposition. 

In poetry it was even more difficult to adopt Western 
standards, so that well in the twentieth century the old 


islam and the Muslim World 

Arabic Literature 

monorhyme/monometer standard of the qasida remained 
undisputed. These poets could, however, not escape from 
expressing modern themes. So-called neo-Classicist poets 
could well be expected to eulogize the introduction of radio 
in the 1920s in the most lofty of ways. 

The Mahjar 

As a result of deteriorating economical, social, and political 
circumstances in the second half of the nineteenth century in 
the-then Ottoman province of Syria/Lebanon, a great num- 
ber of Arabs from these regions migrated to the Americas. 
Literary aspirations emerged within these Arab communities, 
resulting in the establishment of Arabic newspapers, literary 
periodicals, and societies, the most prominent of which 
became al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya (The Pen Club) in the Bos- 
ton/New York area (1920). Its most famous member (and its 
chairman) wasjibran Khalil Jibran (d. 1931). 

Far from their homeland, confronted with an alien envi- 
ronment, and having lived through the aftermath of existen- 
tial shocks like the First World War and the Titanic disaster, 
these young poets dared to experiment and address ideas, 
themes, and personal emotions that were hitherto unknown 
in Arabic literature. The thematical innovations of this Mahjar- 
generation only had their influence on literature in the 
homeland much later, if at all. 

The Romantic Poets and Apollo 

In Egypt the important poets of the 1920s and 1930s were 
deeply influenced by English romantic poets such as William 
Blake (d. 1827), Samuel Coleridge (d. 1834), Lord Byron 
(d.1824), and Percy Shelley (d. 1822). Love, subjectivism, 
inward concentration, and dreamy nationalism were among 
the ingredients of this poetry. 

At first the young poets in the Diwan group, named after a 
study in literary criticism, advocated traditional forms, but 
later another group of poets gathered around the periodical 
Apollo promoted experiments in the use of form, partly as a 
consequence of their romantic inspiration, which sometimes 
came close to escapism. 

Arabic Poetry after World War II 

The Second World War hardly had a direct impact on the 
Arab world, but it was all the more influential in its conse- 
quences. The divide between capitalism and socialism split 
the Arab world as well as Europe, not to mention the 
beginning struggle in many countries for independence from 
the colonialist powers. 

As a reaction to the Romanticism of the twenties and 
thirties post- World War II poetry became extremely politi- 
cal, the slogan being iltizam: political commitment. A number 
of these poets gathered around the periodical al-Adab that 
was published in Beirut. The members of this group became 
split by the choice between Marxism and Arab nationalism. 
Iltizam as a concept kept playing a sigificant role until the 1980s. 

Another innovation came from Iraq: the Free Verse move- 
ment. It advocated the complete abolishment of all tradi- 
tional forms like meter and rhyme, thereby producing blank 
verse or prose poetry. 

Poetry that was so politically motivated could in the end 
only produce its counterpart, in this case the group of poets 
who were being identified with the periodical Shi'r in Beirut 
(1957-1969). Their poetry can be qualified as intellectual, 
highly sensitive, and open to the West. On the other hand 
symbols that refered to ancient times (Phoenician culture for 
the poets in Syria/Lebanon; Sumerian and Akkadian culture 
for those from Iraq) became popular as an expression of 
nationalist feelings. The most significant poet among this 
generation was the Syrian c Ali Ahmad Said (also known as 
Adunis (b. 1930), together with Nizar Qabbani (d. 1998), one 
of the most popular poets until the present period. 

Meanwhile in Iraq, but even more so in Egypt, under the 
influence of socialist ideology, iltizam poetry developed to 
social realistic poetry, which in its turn paved the way for 
Palestinian resistance poetry with its strong political bias. 

The Arabic Novel 

Under the influence of Western fiction, especially by French 
romantic novelists, the first attempts to write novels can be 
considered emulations of Western models. The genre of the 
novel was almost entirely strange to Arabic tradition. Some 
early attempts were still shaped like the medieval Arabic 
maqama, but this rhymed prose structure was soon given up. 

Just before the beginning of the twentieth century the 
historic novel emerged, inspired by the works of Sir Walter 
Scott (1771-1832) and Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). With 
the rise of nationalism around 1910 in Egypt, the scope of 
early novels changed to realistic stories placed in the vivid 
environment of the contemporary Egyptian countryside (e.g., 
Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal [d. 1956], considered 
as the first serious novel in the Arab world, and al-Ayyam by 
Taha Husayn [d. 1973]). 

In the 1920s the influence of French realism and of 
Russian prose made itself felt in short-story writing, but 
Arabic prose really went its own way from the 1930s onward, 
when it obtained the psychological dimension of realistic 
autobiography, humor, and social criticism. This opened the 
way to the main directions of post-World War II prose: 
existentialism (Lebanon), social realism (Egypt, Algeria, 
Morocco), social criticism (Egypt, Palestine), neo-realism 
(Egypt), and feminism (throughout the Arab world). A mod- 
ern generation that started to publish in the 1960s added a 
lyrical , ironical, and plainly realistic flavor as a result of which 
modern Arabic prose nowadays complies to international 
standards, without losing the local color that Arab novelists as 
real storytellers will never neglect. Nagib Mahfuz (b. 191 1) is 
rightly considered to be one of the great international novel- 
ists of the twentieth century. 

islam and the Muslim World 

6 7 

Arab League 

Not Available 

Novelist Nagib Mahfuz, pictured here, won the Nobel Prize in 
literature in 1988. The novel was a completely new genre in 
Arabic when, early in the twentieth century, writers in the Arab 
world began their attempts at long prose. Though these early 
works were heavily dictated by the style of French and Russian 
novels, by the 1930s writers of prose in Arabic began developing 
in many different directions. New York Times Pictures 

The main reason for the rapid development of prose 
should be sought in the fact that — as opposed to poetry — it 
was a relatively new form in Arabic literature, not burdened 
by age-old tradition. 

In the West, Arabic literature is best known for two 
creations: the Arabian Nights and the novels of Nagib Mahfuz 
that earned him the Nobel prize for literature in 1988, 
although it is paradoxical that neither can be considered as 
representative of the Arabic literary tradition. 

See also Arabic Language; Biography and Hagiography; 
Historical Writing; Persian Language and Literature; 
Qur 3 an. 


Allen, Roger. The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Development of 
Its Genres and Criticism. Cambridge U.K.: Cambridge 
University Press, 1998. 

Allen, Roger M. A. An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cam- 
bridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000 

Allen, Roger; Kilpatrick, Hilary; and De Moor, Ed, eds. 
Love and Sexuality in Modern Arabic Literature. London: 
Saqi, 1995. 

Badawi, M. M. A Critical Introduction to Modern Arabic Poetry. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1975. 

Brugman, J. An Introduction to the History of Modern Arabic 
Literature in Egypt. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1984. 

Grunebaum, Gustave E. von. Themes in Medieval Arabic 
Literature. London: Variorum Reprints, 1981. 

Jad, Ali B. Form and Technique in the Egyptian Novel 1912-1971. 
London: Ithaca Press, 1983. 

Jayyusi, Salma Khadra. Trends and Movements in Modern 
Arabic Poetry. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1977. 

Jones, Alan. Early Arabic Poetry, Vol. 1: Marathi and SuHuk 
Poems (Edition, Translation and Commentary). Oxford, U.K.: 
Ithaca Press, 1992. 

Kilpatrick, Hilary. The Modern Egyptian Novel: A Study in 
Social Criticism. London: Ithaca Press, 1974. 

Lichtenstadter, Use. Introduction to Classical Arabic Literature. 
New York: Schocken Books, 1976. 

Meisami, Julie S., and Starkey, Paul, eds. Encyclopedia of Arabic 
Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. 

Moreh, Shmuel. Modern Arabic Poetry 1800-1970. Leiden: 
E.J. Brill, 1976. 

Pinckney-Stetkevych, Suzanne. The Mute Immortals Speak: 
Pre-Islamic Poetry and Poetics of Ritual. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cor- 
nell University Press, 1993. 

Somekh, Sasson. The Changing Rhythm: A Study of Najib 
Mahfuz 's Novels. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973. 

Stetkevych, Jaroslav. Muhammad and the Golden Bough. Bloom- 
ington: Indiana University Press, 1996. 

Gert Borg 


Also known as the League of Arab States (Jami'at al-Duwal 
al-'Arabiyya), the Arab League was founded in 1945 as a 
grouping of Arab states. The Arab League's objectives are to 
solidify cooperation among its members in the areas of 
defense, politics, communications, society, and culture. It has 
its roots in pan-Arab nationalism and anticolonialism, but it 
recognizes in principle the independence and sovereignty of 
the diverse nation-states that constitute its membership. Its 
founding members are Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, 
Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Permanently based in Cairo, the 
Arab League now has twenty-two members, the most recent 
to join being Djibouti (1977) and the Comoros Islands 
(1993). The Palestine Liberation Organization (now the 
Palestinian Authority) was launched and given observer sta- 
tus by the League in 1964; it won full member status in 1976. 


islam and the Muslim World 


The League houses a number of specialized agencies, includ- 
ing those dealing with communication, labor, Palestine, civil 
aviation, and cities. It also convenes the Arab Summit, a 
periodic gathering of Arab heads of state. 

The Arab League has established ties of cooperation and 
mutual consultation with other international and regional 
organizations, including the United Nations and the Organi- 
zation of African Unity. Islamic religion does not constitute 
either its core ideology, nor its primary purpose; Islam is 
notably absent from the League charter. Moreover, the overt 
secular influence that Jamal 'Abd al-Nasser's Egypt exercised 
over the League was a major factor in the creation of the 
Muslim World League in 1962. Nonetheless, the Arab League 
does maintain formal relations with the Organization of the 
Islamic Conference. Islam has also shaped its organizational 
style, as reflected in its flag, which has a crescent moon (hilal) 
on a green field. 

The League's effectiveness has often been called into 
question. Its efforts to forge a common front against Israel 
have been unsuccessful, as evidenced by the expulsion of 
Egypt for signing the Camp David peace accords with Israel 
in 1979 (Egypt was reinstated in 1987). In March 2002, 
however, it unanimously supported a Saudi-sponsored peace 
initiative that offered recognition of Israel in return for that 
state's withdrawal from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. 
The League has also had mixed success in resolving conflicts 
among its own member states, as demonstrated by its failure 
to prevent Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and its inability 
to force Iraq's withdrawal in the face of international 

See also c Abd al-Nasser, Jamal; Organization of the 
Islamic Conference. 


Hasou, Tawfiq Y. The Struggle for the Arab World: Egypt's 
Nasser and the Arab League. London, Boston: KPI, 1985. 

Juan Eduardo Campo 


Islamic architecture is in part comprised of those buildings 
and built environments intended for use in Islamic worship, 
commemoration, and instruction. Among the architecture of 
this group are mosques, madrasas or schools, mausoleums, 
and shrines. Islamic architecture may also be considered as 
the creation of patrons and builders who profess Islam or 
those that live in a region ruled by Muslims. These buildings 
can generally be described as secular, and include suqs (mar- 
ketplaces), hammams (public baths), khans (inns), caravanseries 
or roadside inns, palaces, and houses. 

Defining Islamic Architecture 

Although Islamic architecture is infinitely varied in plan, 
elevation, building material, and decorative programs, there 
are several recurring forms found in all types of buildings, be 
they religious, secular, public, or private. These basic compo- 
nents are the dome, the arch, and the vault (Fig. 1 a-c). Before 
describing the different aspects of Islamic architecture it is 
important to pause and ask if such a categorization is viable. 

This question stems from three considerations. First is the 
fact that the forms and decorative practices of these buildings 
are largely adaptations of pre-Islamic models. Thus it is not 
improper to ask if Islamic architecture should in fact be 
labeled Classical, Sassanian, or Hindu. If all that was being 
considered were forms emptied of meaning and function then 
the answer to this question would be a resounding yes. The 
second consideration derives from the fact that many of the 
architectural forms considered as Islamic architecture were 
built for secular purposes. How, then, can a religious category 
designate houses, inns, baths, or even cities? Are there essen- 
tial qualities of these secular spaces that give them meaning as 
Islamic architecture? Finally, there is a question of fit. If 
Christians, Jews, and Hindus living within an Islamic region 
build similar forms then would not the designation be too 
narrow? And, conversely is the designation too broad? For 
how can a Malaysian congregational mosque built in the 
twenty-first century be placed under the same analytic cate- 
gory as an Umayyad congregational mosque of the eighth 
century, when they are not built of the same materials and do 
not display common decorative practices or forms? 

While such considerations are beyond the scope of this 
article, it is important to realize that contemporary historians 
of Islamic architectural history weigh these questions criti- 
cally. Some have responded by introducing more specified 
categories of Islamic architecture, such as those based on 
regional, dynastic, and chronological designations. Others 
have introduced new analytic models, for example, by study- 
ing the development of certain architectural forms, such as 
the minaret, or a practice, such as the use of public inscrip- 
tions. Taken together, recent scholarship of Islamic architec- 
ture presents a more historically contingent and culturally 
varied approach to the study of Islamic architecture. Many of 
the problems associated with the category of Islamic architec- 
ture arise from what is taken as the meaning of architecture. If 
Islamic architecture is simply a material entity, composed of 
classical forms, then the notion of Islamic architecture as 
being distinct from Byzantine or Sassanian becomes ques- 
tionable. However, if by architecture we mean a dynamic 
space that produces relationships between people and helps 
individuals understand and articulate their identity through 
their engagement (or disengagement) with that space then 
the meaningfulness of Islamic architecture can be seen as a 
distinct construction. 

islam and the Muslim World 



Basic architectural components 

a. Dome b. Arch c. Muqarnas Vault 

Figure 1 . 

The Mosque 

The mosque is the preeminent dynamic space that stands at 
the center of Islamic society and culture. It is both a spiritual 
site of worship and a social site of education, debate, and 
discussion of religion, politics, and current events. Arab 
caliphs and their governors were the first builders of architec- 
tural mosques. Emerging from a Bedouin culture that did not 
necessitate permanent architecture, these early Islamic rulers 
adopted and adapted the building traditions of the cultures 
they conquered to guide the formation and style of the new 
mosques. Two notable sources that contributed to the early 
mosques's forms and styles were the Byzantine and Sassanian 
Empires. In the conquered regions previously dominated by 
these cultures Arabs established garrison cities and ordered 
the founded mosques to provide the Islamic community with 
a space to meet and pray. The mosques that appeared in the 
first centuries of Islamic history were either renovated struc- 
tures, for example, Christian churches converted into mosques, 
or they were new buildings constructed from recycled parts of 
abandoned buildings, particularly columns of Roman ruins. 
Some Islamic rulers, such as the Umayyad builders of the 
Dome of the Rock (completed in 692 c.e.) and the Great 
Mosque of Damascus (706-714 c.e.), employed Byzantine 

artisans practiced in mosaic design to decorate their struc- 
tures with dazzling images of vegetation, jewelry, and Qur 3 anic 
inscriptions. Over time, the practice of employing local 
building techniques, decorative practices, and architectural 
forms resulted in mosques of different regions and periods of 
the Islamic world appearing visually dissimilar. They are, 
however, all connected by their principal function: to provide 
a central space for the Islamic community to unite, pray, and 
exchange information. 

The prophet Muhammad's house was the first constructed 
mosque (Fig. 2). Established soon after his community moved 
to Medina in 622 c.e., it was a simple, unremarkable enclo- 
sure. The principal consideration of Muhammad's mosque 
was to provide a large, open, and expandable courtyard so the 
ever-growing community could meet in one place. The walls 
of the courtyard were made of mud-brick and had three 
openings. The walls surrounded an open space of about 61 
square yards (56 meters). On the east side of the courtyard 
were the modest living quarters of Muhammad and his 
family. Palm tree trunks were used for the columns and palm 
leaves for the roof of a covered area called the zulla, which was 
built to protect worshipers from the midday sun. The zulla 


islam and the Muslim World 


House of the prophet Muhammad, Medina 

Figure 2. 

marked the direction Muslim prayer was originally oriented — 
north, toward the holy and venerated city of the Jews, 
Jerusalem. Later, Muhammad, while in prayer, received di- 
vine enlightenment that caused him to change the direction 
of prayer south to the Ka'ba in Mecca. The zulla was there- 
fore moved to concur with the new qibla (direction of prayer). 
Besides the qibla, another architectural form introduced at 
the first mosque was the minbar (stepped platform or pulpit) 
from which Muhammad addressed the growing Islamic 

The Prophet's mosque, with its austere plan, large square 
enclosure, orientation toward the qibla, and minbar, provides 
the basic elements of subsequent mosque architecture. The 
first mosque type to emerge was the hypostyle plan (Fig. 3). 
Its basic unit, the bay (a covered area defined by four col- 
umns), could be expanded upon so the mosque could grow 
with the community. The hypostyle mosque typically has an 
inner courtyard, called the sahn, surrounded by colonnades or 
arcades (riwaqs) on three sides. Within the courtyard there is 
usually an ablutions fountain, where the wudu' (minor ablu- 
tion) is performed before the salat (prayer). There are three 
entrances into the sahn. The principal entrance can be a 
monumental portal as built in Cairo in the Fatimid Mosque of 
al-Hakim(1002 c.e.). Passing through the sahn, theworshiper 
walked into a covered sanctuary area or haram. The haram of 
the Great Mosque of Cordoba (786, 962-966 c.e.) is one of 
the most visually breathtaking. The arches of the double-arch 
arcades are composed of alternating red brick courses and 
pale stone voussoirs that when viewed from within the sanc- 
tuary produce a visually captivating labyrinthine configura- 
tion over one's head. Once inside the sanctuary of a mosque 
the focus is the qibla, a directional wall that indicated which 
way to pray. In the center of the wall was often a semicircular 
niche with an arched top, known as the mihrab. In large 
mosques a minbar located to the right of the mihrab was also 
included. It was from atop the minbar that on Fridays the 
khutba (sermon) was delivered by the imam or prayer-leader. 
The minbar is based on the stepped platform that was used by 
Muhammad. It ranges from a simple three-step elevation to a 
highly decorated monumental stairway of many steps. The 

very top of the minbar is never occupied as it is symbolically 
reserved as the space of Muhammad, the original imam. 

In large mosques another platform called the dikka is 
provided at the rear of the sanctuary, or in the courtyard, and 
along the same axis as the mihrab. A qadi repeats the sermon 
and prayer from the dikka for those standing too far from the 
minbar. Located outside of some mosques is a minaret that, 
along with the dome, has become the architectural symbol of 
Islam due to its ubiquitous presence and high visibility. 
Constructed as a tower, it either stands outside the mosque 
precinct or it is attached to the outer walls or portals of the 
mosque. The minaret varies in shape, ornamentation, and 
number depending on the region and building conventions of 
the patron. Besides visually broadcasting the presence of the 
mosque and Islam within a city or landscape the minaret also 
serves as an effective place for the mu'adhdhin or "caller" (also 
muezzin) to perform the adhan (call to prayer) and be heard 
for a great distance. The maqsurah is a later addition made to 
the hypostyle-plan mosque. It is a differentiated, protective 
space, adjacent to the qibla wall. The maqsurah is found in 
mosques where the imam or ruler wanted either to be pro- 
tected or ceremonially separated from the congregation. It 
was originally built as a raised platform separated with a 
wooden screen that allowed total to partial concealment of its 

Types of Mosques. There are two general types of mosques. 
The first is the congregational mosque, known as the jami c 
masjid. The jam? (from the Arabic word for "to gather") is 
built on a large scale to accommodate the entire Islamic 
community of a town or city. The second type is known 
simply as masjid (from the Arabic word meaning "to prostrate 
oneself). Masjids are small community mosques used daily 
by members of a quarter, or an ethnic group within a city. 
Masjids were also constructed as subsidiary structures next to 
mausoleums, palaces, caravanseries, and madrasas. Early masjids 
and jam? masjids, while different in size, shared the same 
architectural forms and style. However, as Islamic rulers grew 
in wealth and power starting in the late seventh century, they 
built monumental jami c masjids in their cities to reflect the 
preeminence of Islam and the permanence of their dynasty. 
Adapting the basic building elements of vaults, arches, and 
domes, these rulers built mosques that from the exterior 
appeared to span large areas and soar to great heights. To 
create a stunning visual experience in the interior the jami' 
masjids were ornamented with complex geometric and ara- 
besque or vegetal decoration in mosaic and stucco. Quartered 
marble decorated the lower walls, or dados, and Qur'anic and 
historical inscriptions in stucco and mosaic Arabic script 
engaged the intellect. 

Regional Variation of Mosques. Although there is no one 
style to unify the mosques of the Islamic world, they can be 
divided into broad regional variants. The mosque style of 

islam and the Muslim World 



Hypostyle Plan 

central Arabia was an early development influenced by church- 
building of the Syrian Byzantine Empire and palace-building 
of the Sassanian Persian Empire. In the east, the ground plans 
of the Great Mosques of Kufa (638 c.e.) and Basra (635 c.e.) 
were square like those of Zoroastrian temples. When the 
GreatMosque of Kufa was rebuilt in 670, its haram. was based 
on the apadanas or throne rooms of Achaemenian kings: five 
rows of tall stone columns supporting a teak ceiling. Simi- 
larly, the GreatMosque of Damascus, built by the Umayyad 
caliph al-Walid between 706-714, was based on indigenous 
building conventions. Architects used the preexisting enclo- 
sure of the temenos and church, but since the mosque had to be 
oriented to the south, the qibla wall was on the longer side of 
the rectangular space. Also, due to the constraints of the 
preexisting quadrangle, the courtyard was transversal in ori- 
entation rather than longitudinal. The haram contained a 
short, wide central nave with a gabled roof and a wooden 
dome in its center. Three aisles of double-tiered arches, 

parallel to the qibla wall, supported a gabled ceiling. Al- 
Walid, wanting to outdo the neighboring churches and 
temples, employed Syrian-Christian artisans to richly deco- 
rate the interior of the mosque with imported gold and 
colored mosaics and marble, and even used rock crystal for 
the m.ihrab. 

The early Abbasid caliphate, ruling from Baghdad from 
749 to 847, first built their mosques with square floor plans as 
the early Umayyads had done in the region. However, after 
the Abbasids moved their capital to Samarra, their mosques 
reflected the rectangular hypostyle form favored by the later 
Umayyads. The Great Mosque of Samarra, built by al- 
Mutawakkil from 848 to 852, was the largest hypostyle 
mosque of its time with nine rows of columns in the sanctuary 
that supported a thirty-five-foot-high ceiling. The mosque is 
most famous for Malwiyya, the colossal spiral minaret. Once 
faced with gold tiles, Malwiyya's great size and unusual shape 


islam and the Muslim World 


made the Great Mosque of Samarra a highly visible presence 
in the surrounding landscape. 

Sub-Saharan West African mosques are unique in their 
use of organic materials that are constantly replenished over 
time, such as tamped earth, timber, and vegetation. Due to 
seasonal deterioration during the wet and dry seasons, the 
mosques are constantly being repaired and resurfaced. The 
predominant quality of these structures is their rounded 
organic form, reinforced with projecting timber beams or 
torons, which also serve as supports for scaffolding when the 
mosque is being resurfaced. The Great Mosque of Djenne 
(thirteenth century) is the most representative of the West 
African mosques. Its tall rounded towers and engaged col- 
umns, which act as buttresses, easily flow into each other and 
give the structure its characteristic verticality and overwhelming 

The central-planned, domed mosque of the Ottomans is 
yet another distinctive type. When the Ottomans conquered 
Constantinople in the fifteenth century they converted the 
Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia into a mosque by framing 
it with two pointed minarets. Later in the nineteenth century 
they added roundels inscribed with calligraphic writing of the 
names of Muhammad, Allah, and the early caliphs. Using the 
Hagia Sophia as their prototype, Ottoman rulers built mosques 
in the principal cities of their empire. The mosques were 
defined by large spherical domes, with smaller half-domes at 
the corners of the square, and four distinctively shaped 
minarets — tall, fluted, and needle-nosed — that were typi- 
cally placed at the exterior corners of the mosque complex. 
The Selimiye Cami (Mosque of Selim) in Edirne, Tur- 
key (1507-1574), best characterizes the central-plan Otto- 
man mosque. 

Moving further east to Seljuk Iran, another type of mosque 
emerges known as the four-iwan mosque. The iwan is an open 
vaulted space with a rectangular portal or pishtaq. In a Seljuk 
mosque four of these iwans would be oriented around a 
central courtyard. The Great Mosque of Isfahan, built in this 
style in the twelfth century, is a monumental four-iwan 
mosque. Of these, the principal or qibla iwan is the largest, 
with a large domed maqsura and muqarnas vaulting. To lend it 
further visual impact, two minarets were added at the corners 
of the portal. The iwan that stood opposite the qibla iwan 
followed in size, and it was both smaller and shallower. The 
lateral iwans were the smallest. While the exterior of the 
mosque was unadorned, the inward-facing iwans were deco- 
rated with architectural ceramic tiles of turquoise, cobalt 
blue, white, deep yellow, and green. The decorative designs 
contained geometric and arabesque patterns as well as Kufic 
inscriptions. The layout of the Great Mosque of Isfahan 
influenced countless other mosques in Iran, Central Asia, and 
South Asia. 

From their start, the mosques of South Asia were syncretic 
structures. They were the by-products of hired Hindu ma- 
sons, indigenous architectural material taken from destroyed 
or decaying Hindu buildings, and necessary elements of 
mosque architecture such as the mihrab. The mosques were 
trabeated at first and decorated with popular Hindu motifs 
such as vegetal scrolls and lotuses. The plans of South Asian 
mosques ranged from traditional hypostyle, to Persian four- 
iwan types, and to single-aisle domed plans. The earliest 
mosques of the Delhi sultanate (1192-1451) were hypostyle 
and built out of reused materials from Hindu and Jain temples 
such as the Quwwat al-Islam in Delhi of the late twelfth 
century. The greatest achievement of this mosque is the 
monumental minaret, the Qutb Minar. Standing at 2 3 8 feet it 
was a victory tower that announced the power of the new 
religion to the surrounding landscape. 

The next significant mosque type of South Asia is the 
single-aisle plan with five bays that used stucco and colored 
stones as surface decoration and squinch and muqarnas vault- 
ing. These mosques had monumental central portals and 
domes. The Bara Gumbad mosque in Delhi, built by Sultan 
Sikandar Lodi in 1494, and the QaPa-e-Kuhna mosque of 
Sher Shah (1540-1545) exemplify this style. It was this basic 
form of mosque architecture that was later adopted by the 
great Mogul dynasty (1426-1848). Two exemplary Mogul- 
style mosques are Akbar's Great Mosque of Fatehpur Sikri 
(1571-1572) and Shah Jahan's Great Mosque at Delhi 
(1650-1656). These mosques have large courtyards and are 
built from the local red sandstone combined with white 
marble to create decorative geometric and vegetal patterns. 
The distinctive feature of Akbar's mosque at Fatehpur Sikri is 
the monumental portal on the south side called the Buland 
Darwaza. Its form is that of a colossal pishtaq (tall central 
portal), derived from Timurid origins. It is embellished with 
native Indian architectural elements as well such as small 
open pavilions called chatris and lotus-shaped medallions. 
Located on the west side of the great courtyard is the 
sanctuary, a three-domed prayer-hall with a central pishtaq. 
The Great Mosque of Delhi was based on the four-iwan plan. 
Three onion-shaped bulbous marble domes surmount the 
qibla iwan, the same shape used for the dome of the Taj 
Mahal. The minarets are divided into four parts and are 
capped with small pavilions. Smaller, private mosques built 
for the Mughal palaces of Lahore, Agra, and in Delhi reflect 
the fine marble carving skills of the Indian artisans. Faced 
with white marble, elegantly carved with vegetal patterns, 
these mosques were then topped with graceful onion-shaped 
domes with lotus molding and metallic finials. These private 
imperial mosques were the architectural counterparts of the 
elegant gems so highly prized by the Mughals. 

Shrines and Mausoleums 

Shrines and mausoleums that commemorate important places 
and people of the Islamic world comprise another important 
component of sacred Islamic architecture. The first great 

isfam and the Muslim World 

7 3 


shrine was al-Haram al-Sharif or Dome of the Rock in 
Jerusalem. Built between 687 and 691 by the Umayyad caliph 
c Abd al-Malik, it covers a renowned irregular rock formation. 
Muslims believe that is was from this rock that Muhammad 
began his night journey, or isra\ to heaven. Located on the 
Temple Mount of Mount Moriah its golden dome is seen for 
miles reflecting in the landscape. The sanctuary of the Dome 
of the Rock is in the shape of an octagon and is surmounted by 
a tall drum and dome. The rock is surrounded by a screen and 
then a circular arcade of alternating columns and piers. Next 
is an octagonal arcade that is surrounded by the outer walls 
that together create a double ambulatory. A frieze of Kufic 
inscriptions in gold tile on blue background is found on the 
inside and outside of the octagonal arcade. It is the first 
occurrence of Qur'anic inscription in Islamic architecture. 
Adding to the sumptuous quality of the interior are other 
mosaics of turquoise, blue, and green tiles that could be 
depictions of the lush foliage of Paradise, and royal insignia of 
those vanquished by Muslim conquest. 

The mausoleums of imams, rulers, the wealthy, and saints 
comprise the other part of Islamic commemorative architec- 
ture. Although the prophet Muhammad dictated that burials 
should be simple and without grave markers mausoleums are 
found throughout the Islamic world. Following the forms of 
the Dome of the Rock and the Byzantine martyrium, which 
the former was also inspired by, the Muslims founded their 
own funerary architecture. The basic form of the mausoleum 
was a square enclosure, derived from the shape of a house 
where the dead were traditionally buried, surmounted by a 
dome. In cities such as Mamluk Cairo (1250-1517), the 
domed square plan compelled builders to plan vertically 
instead of laterally due to spatial and structural constraints of 
preexisting streets. To deflect the admonitions of the Muslim 
orthodox that perceived tomb building as irreligious, Arab 
builders in North Africa, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and 
the Levant made the mausoleum part of larger religious 
complexes. The mausoleum is thus often one part of a 
complex composed of a mosque, madrasa, or religious school, 
and sometimes a hospital or khanqa (residence of a Sufi 
leader). Although the buildings had unique functions, they 
shared the same architectural elements. The architects uni- 
fied the complex with geometric and arabesque designs to 
decorate the buildings, marble revetment, muqarnas or stalac- 
tite vaults (also called honeycomb vault), and ceramic tiles, 
among countless other regional variants and conventions. 

While the mausoleum met with periodic waves of disap- 
proval in the Arabian world it was a fully acceptable form in 
the Persianate world of Iran, Anatolia, Iraq, Central Asia, 
Afghanistan, and South Asia. The two basic forms of Persianate 
mausoleum are the yurt-inspired tomb tower such as the 
northern Iranian Gunbad-e Qabus (1007) and the domed 
square and later octagonal tombs, like the Tomb of the 
Samanids in Bukhara (tenth century), the Ilkhanid Sultaniya 
mausoleum of Iljeytu (early fourteenth century), and the 

famous Taj Mahal (1631-1643) of Shah Jahan in India. In 
eleventh-century Egypt another type of mausoleum emerged 
called the canopy mausoleum, because it was open to the 
elements. An example of this type is the Fatimid funerary 
complex of Sab 3 a Banat in Fustat. A later Fatimid develop- 
ment of the mausoleum form is the mashhad, a large square 
domed tomb connected to a three-room unit entered through 
a portal and organized around a courtyard that served pil- 
grims. The mashhad of Sayyida Ruqayya, an c Alid saint, built 
in 1 1 3 3 , is an example of this type of mausoleum. The final 
type of mausoleum to be considered here makes skillful use of 
one of the most famous architectural forms: the muqarnas. A 
stalactite squinch usually found in the transitional zones 
between wall and dome, the muquarnaswas used in all types of 
Islamic architecture. During the Ayyubid (1099-1250) and 
Mamluk (1250-1517) periods, the mausoleum was brought 
out of the cemetery and into the urban fabric. With their 
increased visibility these tombs became centers for transmit- 
ting political information and education of the Sunni relig- 
ious schools of law. They were also gathering centers for the 
followers of Sufism. Building the mausoleum in the city of 
Cairo compelled a few changes in design. As there was little 
room to build laterally, the focus of the architecture was on 
the drum and dome of the building, built ever higher and with 
more richly textured transitional zones and domes. 

Secular Architecture 

One of the secular types of Islamic architecture is the palace, 
which matches the mosque in reflecting the rich variety of 
forms, ornamentation, and the sophisticated skills of artisans. 
Built as large complexes rather than singular units, Islamic 
palaces were generally self-sustaining, and most contained 
bastion walls, towers, gates, baths, stables, private quarters, 
public meeting spaces, workshops, offices, hospitals, harams 
or zenanas (reserved for the women of the palace), libraries, 
pavilions, fountains, and gardens. These palaces were built as 
the architectural embodiment of the ruler, the spatial meta- 
phor of his dominion, and, if built in idyllic settings with 
surrounding gardens, were considered earthly paradises. The 
first palaces were built by the Umayyads and were modeled 
after Roman villas. Serving as hunting lodges or rural resi- 
dences these include the Qasr al-Hayr, Khirbat al-Mafjar, 
and Khirbat al-Minya of the eighth century. Other well- 
known palaces are the Fatimid Palace of al-Qahira (1087-1092), 
Umayyad Madinat al-Zahira of Cordoba (93 6-976), the Nasrid 
Alhambra in Granada, Spain (early fourteenth century), the 
Ottoman Topkapi complex, and Mogul Fatehpur Sikri and 
Red Fort, built in Delhi during the sixteenth century. 

Islamic secular architecture is also public in nature. Among 
these buildings are the caravanseries and hammams. The 
caravanserai was a stopping place for travelers to rest and 
water and feed their animals. A typical caravanserai had a 
large open courtyard with a single large portal. Inside, along 
the walls, were covered arcades that contained identical stalls 


islam and the Muslim World 


to accommodate a traveler, and his servants. Animals were 
usually kept in the courtyard or stables located in the corners. 
Caravansaries were usually fortified with bastions and turreted 
walls. As with mosques and palaces, caravansaries vary in 
ornamentation and form from region to region. Inside the 
city the khan housed the travelers and merchants. These 
structures were multistoried and overlooked a central court- 
yard. The animals and goods were kept on the ground floor 
and apartments were located above. 

The public bath or hammam was another architectural 
form found in many Islamic cities. Along with the khan it was 
located in the sua or marketplace. Adopted from the Romans, 
the hammam was used for washing and purification before 
Friday prayer. It was composed of large rooms for steam 
baths as well as others for soaking in hot and cold water, all of 
which communicated through waiting halls. Utilizing marble 
covered floors and walls, arches, large ornamented domes 
that helped circulate hot air, muqarnas vaults, and stucco 
decoration, some public baths were highly luxurious environ- 
ments. Men and women bathed separately either in their own 
hammam, if there were two in a town, or on different days or 
at designated times. 

Residential Architecture 

The final type of Islamic architecture to be considered is the 
domestic. The typical house built in Islamic societies is 
oriented inward. A bent entrance that turns at a sharp angle 
marks the transition from the outside world to the home. The 
entrances of homes do not usually align with those across the 
street, so the privacy of the interior is maintained. On the 
inside the rooms are arranged around a central courtyard and 
range from the private spaces of the family to semiprivate 
spaces where male guests, who were not members of the 
family, could enter. The open courtyard ventilates the house. 
A central basin or fountain, part of most courtyards, also 
provides a cooling effect and the soothing sound of falling 
water. In more prosperous households delicately carved 
wooden screens called mashraabiyyat were used to create 
private space, filter air from the outside, and allow light to 
enter the home. The exterior of an Islamic house is often left 
unadorned. Only upon entering the home will the visitor 
know the class status of the owner. 

See also Adhan; Art; Dome of the Rock; Holy Cities; 
Jami c ; Manar, Manara; Mashhad; Masjid; Mihrab; 
Minbar (Mimbar); Religious Institutions. 


Abu-Lughod, Janet. "The Islamic City: Historical Myth, 
Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance." Interna- 
tional Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 19 (1987): 155-176. 

Blair, Sheila S., and Bloom, Jonathan M. "The Mirage of 
Islamic Art: Reflections on the Study of an Unwieldy 
Field." Art Bulletin 85 (2003): 152-184. 

Bloom, Jonathan. Minaret: Symbol of Islam. Oxford, U.K.: 
Oxford University Press, 1989. 

Creswell, K. A. C. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architec- 
ture. 2d ed. Aldershot, U.K.: Scholar Press, 1989. 

Frishman, Martin, and Hasan-Uddin, Khan, eds. The Mosque: 
History, Architectural Development & Regional Diversity. 
London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. 

Grabar, Oleg. The Formation of Islamic Art. New Haven, 
Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987. 

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function and 
Meaning. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. 

Hoag, John D. Islamic Architecture. New York: Abrams, 1977. 

Michell, George, ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its 
History and Social Meaning (1978). New York: Thames and 
Hudson, 1984. 

Santhi Kavuri-Bauer 


Islamic art is generally reckoned to cover all of the visual arts 
produced in the lands where Muslims were an important, if 
not the most important, segment of society. Islamic art 
differs, therefore, from such other terms as Buddhist or 
Christian art, for it refers not only to the arts produced by or 
for the religion of Islam but to the arts of all Islamic cultures. 
Islamic art was not necessarily created by or for Muslims, for 
some Islamic art was made by Christian, Jewish, or even 
Hindu artists working for Muslim patrons, and some Islamic 
art was created for non-Muslim patrons. The term does not 
refer to a particular style or period, but covers a broad 
purview, encompassing the arts produced over one-fifth of 
the globe in the traditional heartland of Islam (from Spain to 
India) during the last fourteen hundred years. 

At the beginning of the twenty-first century Islam is the 
world's fastest growing religion. It has spread beyond the 
traditional heartland of Islam in North Africa, the Near East, 
and west Asia to southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 
Muslims comprise nearly one-quarter of the world's popula- 
tion; the largest Muslim populations are in southeast Asia, 
and there are sizable Muslim communities in Europe and 
North America. The term Islamic art is therefore becoming 
increasingly unwieldy, and in current usage concerning mod- 
ern art, the adjective "Islamic" is often restricted to purely 
religious expressions such as calligraphy. 

The idea of an Islamic art is a distinctly modern notion, 
developed not by the culture itself but by art historians in 
Europe and America trying to understand a relatively unfa- 
miliar world and to place the arts created there into the newly 
developing field of art history. In light of the nationalism that 
developed during the early twentieth century, some scholars, 

isfam and the Muslim World 



particularly those in the Islamic lands, questioned the use of 
the term, opting instead for nationalistic names, speaking of, 
say, Turkish or Persian art. But these terms are also mislead- 
ing, for Islam has traditionally been a multiethnic and 
multicultural society, and it is impossible to distinguish the 
contribution of, for example, Persian-speaking artists in what 
is today Turkey. Other scholars, particularly in the late 
twentieth century, have questioned the term Islamic art as too 
general, since it refers neither to the art of a specific era nor to 
that of a particular place or people. Instead, they opt for 
regional or dynastic categories such as Maghribi (i.e., North 
African) orMamluk (i.e., Egyptian and Syrian, thirteenth to 
sixteenth centuries) art. While these terms can be useful, they 
overlook the common features that run through much of the 
art created in the traditional lands of Islam and fragment the 
picture, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with this 
area and its rich cultural traditions. Without slighting the 
differences among the arts created in different regions in 
different periods, this entry focuses on the common features 
that run through many of the arts created within the broad 
rubric of Islamic art: the distinct hierarchy of forms and the 
themes of decoration. 


Apart from architecture, the arts produced in the Islamic 
lands follow a different formal hierarchy than that of Western 
art, where painting and sculpture are the two most important 
forms and are used to make religious images for worship. 
These forms play a relatively minor role in Islamic art, where 
instead the major forms of artistic expression are the arts of 
the book, textiles, ceramics, woodwork, metalwares, and 
glass. In Western art, these are often called the "minor," 
"decorative," or "portable" arts, but such labels are pejora- 
tive, implying that these forms are secondary, less meaningful 
and less permanent than the more important, stable, and 
therefore "noble" arts of painting and sculpture. To use such 
terms is to view the world of art from the vantage point of the 
West, and one of the significant features of Islamic art is that 
it introduces the viewer to different ways of looking at art. 

Bookmaking. Of all the arts created in the Islamic lands, the 
most revered was the art of the book, probably because of the 
veneration accorded to writing the revealed word of God. 
Calligraphers were deemed the most important type of artist 
and paid the most for their work. They penned many fine 
manuscripts, but the fanciest were exquisite copies of the 
Qur'an. Those made for use in a congregational mosque were 
large, multivolume sets, often divided into either seven or 
thirty parts so that the entire text could be read over the 
course of a week or a month. Personal copies of the Qur'an 
were generally smaller, but they, too, often had fine penman- 
ship. The great reverence for writing spilled over into the 
production of other texts, particularly in Iran, India, and 
Turkey, and it was one of the reasons that printing with 
movable type only began to be adopted in the Islamic lands in 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

Most fine manuscripts made in the Islamic lands also had 
fine decoration. In early times the calligrapher seems to have 
also been responsible for the illumination, which was usually 
added after the writing. For example, the famous scribe 
known as Ibn al-Bawwab (his nickname literally means "son 
of a doorman") did both the writing and the decoration in a 
fine but small copy of the Qur'an made at Baghdad between 
1000 and 1001. In early times calligraphers may have pre- 
pared all their own materials, but from the fourteenth century 
onward, the crafts became increasingly specialized, and we 
know of distinct calligraphers, illuminators, and binders. In 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were joined by a 
host of other specialists, ranging from draftsmen to gold 
beaters, gold sprinklers, rubricators (those who drew the 
lines), and the like. All worked together in a team to produce 
some of the most sublime books ever created in which all the 
elements were carefully harmonized in a unified and bal- 
anced whole. 

Textiles. A second major art form popular in the traditional 
Islamic lands is textiles. They were the most important 
economically and have often been likened to the heavy 
industries of modern times. The four main fibers used were 
wool, cotton, linen, and silk, but the making of fine textiles lay 
not only in producing the fibers, but even more in the expense 
of procuring the dyes, the mordants to fix the colors, the 
materials for the looms, and the transport of both fibers and 
finished goods. It is often hard for modern viewers to appreci- 
ate these textiles, since few have survived from medieval times 
intact. Most were literally worn to shreds, and, unlike in other 
cultures, only a handful were preserved as grave goods since 
Muslims traditionally wrap the body in a plain white sheet for 
burial. Nevertheless in their own times, these textiles were 
immensely valuable not only in the Muslim lands but also 
across the globe: Medieval Europeans commonly used im- 
ported Islamic textiles to wrap the bones of their saints, and 
hence, paradoxically, most medieval Islamic textiles have 
been preserved in Christian contexts. 

Textiles were also important for the history of art. Until 
large sheets of paper to make patterns and cartoons became 
readily available in the fourteenth century, motifs and designs 
were often disseminated through the medium of textiles. 
Textiles are readily portable — they can be folded and carried 
on an animal's back without fear of breaking — and were 
transported over vast distances between Spain and Central 
Asia. The mechanical nature of weaving on a loom also 
encouraged the production of multiples and the use of sym- 
metrical, repeating, and geometric designs that are character- 
istic of much Islamic art. 

Of all textiles, the one most identified with the traditional 
Islamic lands is the knotted carpet. Indeed the traditional 
heartland of Islam is often dubbed "the rug belt." Technically 
the knotted carpet consists of a textile in which additional 


islam and the Muslim World 


threads, usually wool or silk, are knotted into a woven 
substratum to form a furry surface. The origins of the 
technique are obscure and controversial, with different ethnic 
groups claiming precedence. Carpet weaving was already 
practiced for a millennium before the advent of Islam and 
may well have been developed by nomads to take advantage 
of the materials at hand, namely the wool produced by the 
sheep they herded. Nomads typically used portable looms, 
which could be dismantled and carried on horseback when 
the camp moved, to weave small carpets with a limited 
repertory of geometric designs that were generated from the 
technique of weaving itself. 

In the fourteenth century this individual or family craft 
was transformed into a cottage or village industry. Carpets 
became larger and were made in multiples, with some groups 
available for export. They were expensive items used by the 
rich and powerful as status symbols. Depictions of enthroned 
rulers ranging from Mongol manuscripts of the Persian 
national epic to Italian panel paintings of the Madonna and 
Child prominently display Islamic knotted carpets beneath 
the throne, testifying to their international status. 

Carpet-weaving was transformed again in the sixteenth 
century into a national industry. Rulers of the Safavid and 

Ottoman dynasties set up state workshops with room-sized 
looms that required teams of weavers to produce carpets 
measuring over twenty feet across. Unlike the carpet-weaving 
of nomads, which could be put down or picked up at will, 
these large-scale enterprises required vast amounts of materi- 
als prepared and purchased before work began to insure a 
uniform product. Designers prepared paper patterns with 
elaborate floral designs that could only be executed success- 
fully with hundreds of knots per square inch. Some designs 
even emulated the design of traditional Persian gardens, with 
depictions of water channels filled with fish, ducks, and geese 
crossing and dividing rectangular parterres planted with 
cypresses, fruit trees, and flowers. When the carpet was 
spread on the floor, the person sitting on it would have been 
surrounded by a verdant refreshing garden. 

Metals, Ceramics, and Glasswares. Other common art- 
forms created in the Muslim lands comprise metalwares, 
ceramics, and glasswares. These techniques have been dubbed 
the "arts of fire" as they are based on the use of fire to 
transform minerals extracted from the earth into works of art. 
The discovery of fire to transform humble materials into 
utensils was one of the hallmarks of the rise of civilization in 
West Asia, and the manufacture of shimmering metalwares, 
ceramics, and glass continued to be characteristic of the 

isfam and the Muslim World 



Islamic lands until modern times. Iron and copper alloys were 
crafted into weapons, tools, and utensils, while silver and gold 
were made into jewelry and coins. Ceramics were used for 
storage, cooking, and serving food, and glass was used for 
lighting, keeping and serving foods, and storing perfumes and 
medicines. Unlike the Christian lands, where vessels of silver 
and gold were used in church liturgy, Islam required no such 
luxury objects in the mosque, and the finest bowls, plates, and 
pitchers are merely expensive versions of objects used in 
daily life. 

Base metal, ceramic, and glass shapes were also made in 
such rare and costly materials as gold and silver, rock crystal, 
jade, and ivory. The pious disapproved of using gold vessels, 
and many items of precious metal were melted down for coin 
in times of need. A rare silver box made for the Spanish 
Umayyad heir-apparent Abu Walid Hisham in 976 is the 
same shape and dimensions as an ivory example made for the 
Spanish Umayyad chamberlain c Abd al-Malik in Spain be- 
tween 1004 and 1005. The metal box even copies the details 
of the ivory box, including the strap over the top, which is 
hammered from the same sheet of silver as the rest of the lid. 
The strap is useless on the silver box, but imitates the metal 
strap that would have held the lid in place on a wooden or 
ivory box. 

Another case of similar vessels in different media is the 
series of small jugs made for the Timurid rulers of Central 
Asia in the fifteenth century. Some gold ones are illustrated in 
contemporary manuscripts, and examples survive in several 
materials, including jade, metal, and ceramic. The jugs, which 
measure about 6 inches (15 centimeters) high, have a globular 
body and short cylindrical neck with a handle shaped like a 
dragon. The shape derives from Chinese porcelains. The 
inscriptions on the Timurid examples make it clear that they 
were wine jugs, and the various materials correspond to the 
rank of the patron. Jade, technically a type of white nephrite, 
became available after the Timurids seized the jade mines in 
Khotan in Chinese Turkestan. The use of jade was reserved 
for rulers, as it was not only rare and expensive but also 
thought to counteract poison. Timurid rulers and their courti- 
ers also commissioned similar jugs made of brass, sometimes 
inlaid with gold and silver, but some anonymous examples 
were probably made for sale on the open market as were the 
cheaper ceramic ones. 

Themes of Decoration 

Unlike other artistic traditions, particularly the Chinese, 
where form alone can be considered sufficient to turn an 
object into a work of art, much Islamic art is highly decorated. 
Surfaces were elaborately adorned using a wide variety of 
techniques and motifs. While different styles of decoration 
were popular at different times and places, several themes of 
decoration occur everywhere. These include figural decora- 
tion, flowers, geometry, color, and writing. 

Known for detailed ceramic work, this Islamic ceramic was found 
within the tomb of Muhammad in Mecca. © Archivo Iconografico, 

Figural Imagery. Many people believe that images of people 
are forbidden in Islam, but this assumption is wrong. The 
Qur'an forbids idolatry, but it has little to say on the subject of 
figural representation, which was apparently not a subject of 
great importance in Arabia during the late sixth and early 
seventh centuries. Furthermore, Muslims have little need to 
depict images in their religious art. For Muslims, God is 
unique, without associate; therefore He cannot be repre- 
sented, except by His word, the Qur'an. Muslims worship 
God directly without intercessors, so they have no need for 
images of saints, as Christians do. The prophet Muhammad 
was human, not divine, so Muslims do not worship him as 
Christians worship Jesus. Furthermore, the Qur'an is not a 
continuous narrative. Thus, Muslims do not need religious 
images to proselytize in the way that Christians use depic- 
tions of Christ or stories from the Bible to teach their faith. 

Over time this lack of images hardened into law, and the 
absence of figures, technically known as aniconism, became a 
characteristic feature of Islamic religious art. Thus, mosques, 
mosque furnishings such as minbars (pulpits) and mihrabs 
(recesses in the wall facing Mecca), and other types of relig- 
ious buildings such as madrasas do not usually contain pic- 
tures of people. But there is no reason that Muslims cannot 
depict people in other places and settings. Thus palaces 
could, and indeed often did, have images of people, particu- 
larly servants, guards, and other members of a ruler's retinue. 
Similarly, bathhouses were often decorated with bathers, 
sometimes nude, and other scenes of relaxation and pleasure. 


islam and the Muslim World 


These types of secular building were often more architectur- 
ally inventive than religious structures, which tended to 
follow traditional lines. But secular structures have not sur- 
vived as well as mosques and religious structures, which were 
continuously venerated and maintained, and so the historical 
record is spotty, and many of the best-known secular build- 
ings to survive in the Islamic lands are those that have long 
been abandoned. Archaeological excavation and restoration 
of such sites as the bathhouse at Qusayr Amra, built in the 
Jordanian desert by the Umayyads in the early eighth cen- 
tury, and Samarra in Iraq, the sprawling capital built by the 
Abbasids upstream from Baghdad in the mid-ninth century, 
show that already in early Islamic times bathhouses and 
palaces were decorated with pictures of people engaging in 
activities inappropriate in religious situations. 

Similarly, copies of the Qur'an do not have pictures of 
people, but many nonreligious books made in the Islamic 
lands do. These range from scientific treatises to histories, 
chronicles, and literary works, both prose and poetry. Some- 
times, illustrations were needed to explain the text, as in 
copies of al-Sufi's treatise on the fixed stars, al-Kawakib al- 
thabita. They show that the classical tradition of depicting the 
constellations as humans and animals was continued in Islamic 
times. Sometimes, however, illustrations were added even 
when the text did not demand them. One of the most 
frequendy illustrated texts to survive from medieval Islamic 
times is al-Hariri's Maqamat (Seances or Sessions). Eleven 
illustrated copies produced before 1350 have survived, and 
the number suggests that there were once many more. This 
work recounts the picaresque adventures of the cunning 
merchant Abu Zayd as he travels throughout the Muslim 
world, hoodwinking his rivals. The success of the text, which 
became very popular among the educated bourgeoisie of the 
Arab lands, depended on its verbal pyrotechnics, with triple 
puns, subtle allusions, and complex rhymes. The illustrations 
emphasize a different aspect of the text — the protagonist's 
adventures in faraway lands — and provide rare glimpses of 
daily life in medieval times, including scenes of villages, 
markets, and libraries. 

The tradition of figural imagery was particularly strong in 
the Persian world, which had a long history of figural repre- 
sentation stretching back to pre-Islamic times, and the illus- 
trated books made there and in the nearby Persian-speaking 
lands such as India from the fourteenth century onward have 
some of the most stunning illustrations ever painted. Virtu- 
ally all of them include people and animals, both real and 
imaginary. A few even include images of the prophet Mu- 
hammad, but these are not meant as religious icons but to 
illustrate historical or literary texts. The mi c raj, the Prophet's 
mystical journey from Jerusalem to heaven and back men- 
tioned in the Qur'an (17:1), was elaborated, particularly by 
Sufis or mystics, and scenes illustrating it commonly show the 
Prophet on his mystical steed Buraq. In some cases the 

Prophet's face is visible, but by Ottoman times a conservative 
reaction had set in and artists often covered his face and even 
his body with a veil. 

Since figural imagery was unnecessary in Islamic religious 
art, other themes of decoration became more important. 
Many of them had been subsidiary elements in the arts of pre- 
Islamic times. In Byzantine art, for example, depictions of 
people had been set off, framed, or linked by vegetal designs 
(that is, stylized fruits, flowers, and trees) and geometric 
elements (shapes and patterns). In Islamic times, these sub- 
sidiary elements were transformed into major artistic themes. 
At first artists used recognizable elements, such as trees or 
plants, as in the mosaics used in the Great Mosque of 
Damascus erected by the Umayyad caliph al-Walid in the 
early eighth century. With the growing reluctance to depict 
figures, such specific and realistic representations were re- 
placed by more stylized, abstracted, and geometricized motifs. 

Geometry. Such an abstract style was already popular by the 
ninth century and is found on carved plaster and woodwork 
made from North Africa to Central Asia. The extraordinary 
range of this style suggests a common origin in the Abbasid 
capitals of Iraq, and German excavations at the site of Samarra 
in the early twentieth century uncovered many examples in 
molded and carved stucco. The most distinct type uses a 
slanted, or beveled, cut, which allowed the plaster slab to be 
released quickly from the mold. In the beveled style, motifs 
are abstracted and geometricized and the distinction between 
foreground and background is blurred. 

This type of design based on natural forms such as stems, 
tendrils, and leaves rearranged to form infinite geometric 
patterns became a hallmark of Islamic art produced between 
the tenth century and the fifteenth. To describe it, Europeans 
coined the word "arabesque," literally meaning "in the Arab 
style," in the fifteenth or sixteenth century when Renaissance 
artists incorporated Islamic designs in book ornament and 
decorative bookbindings. Over the centuries the word has 
been applied to a wide variety of winding, twining vegetal 
decoration in art and meandering themes in music. 

The nineteenth-century Viennese art historian Alois Riegl 
laid out the principal features of the arabesque in Islamic art. 
In it, the tendrils of the vegetation do not branch off from a 
single continuous stem, as they do in nature, but rather grow 
unnaturally from one another to form a geometric pattern. 
He pointed out that the arabesque also has infinite corre- 
spondence, meaning that the design can be extended indefi- 
nitely in any direction. The structure of the arabesque gives 
the viewer sufficient information to extend the design in his 
or her imagination. 

The popularity of the arabesque was due no doubt to its 
adaptability, for it was appropriate to virtually all situations 
and media, from paper to woodwork and ivory. It was used on 

islam and the Muslim World 



the illuminated pages that were added to decorate the begin- 
ning and end of fine manuscripts, particularly copies of the 
Qur'an. These decorated pages became increasingly elabo- 
rate and are often called carpet pages. The largest and finest 
were produced in Egypt and Syria during the period of rule 
by the Mamluks (r. 1250-1517). The frontispieces in these 
grand manuscripts of the Qur'an (some measure a whop- 
ping 30 inches, or 75 cm, high) are decorated with elabo- 
rate geometric designs of polygons radiating from central 
star shapes. 

From the fourteenth century the arabesque was gradually 
displaced by more naturalistic designs of chrysanthemum, 
peony, and lotus flowers, motifs adopted from Chinese art 
during the period of Mongol rule in Iran. This floral style was 
disseminated westward to the Ottomans, rulers of the eastern 
Mediterranean region after 1453 from their capital at Istan- 
bul. Artists working at the court of the longest-reigning 
and most powerful of the Ottoman sultans, Suleyman (r. 
1620-1666), developed a distinct floral style with composite 
flowers and slender, tapering leaves with serrated edges. 
Designers working in the court studio drew up patterns in 
this style, which craftsmen then executed in various media, 
ranging from ceramics to textiles. 

The pervasiveness of geometric designs throughout Islamic 
art has been traced to the importance of textiles, and Golombek 
coined the phrase "the draped universe of Islam." The pro- 
duction of fibers and dyes formed the mainstay of the medie- 
val Islamic economy. In addition to clothing, textiles were the 
main furnishings of dwellings and even, in the form of tents, 
the dwellings themselves. The central role of textiles is 
underscored by the Ka'aba in Mecca, which Muslims believe 
is the house that Ibrahim (Abraham) erected for God and 
which is the central shrine of Islam, a cubic stone building 
that has been veiled in cloth coverings since the dawn of the 
faith. The structure of weaving favors angular designs based 
on the intertwining of warp and weft, and interlaced designs, 
found even in writing, may be another example of the textile 
mentality that permeated Islamic society. 

Color. Another theme that runs through much Islamic art is 
the exuberant use of color. Bright and vivid colors are found 
not only in illustrated manuscripts, but also in media where 
they might not be expected. For example, metalworkers in 
the Islamic lands developed the technique of inlay, in which a 
vessel made of one metal (typically bronze or brass) is inlaid 
with another (typically, silver, copper, or gold). Designs were 
further set off in a bituminous black that absorbs light, in 
contrast to the surrounding metallic surfaces that reflect it. In 
this way, metal workers could decorate their wares with 
elaborate scenes that resembled paintings or work out enor- 
mous inscriptions that seem to glow from the object and set 
off the patron's name or Qur'anic text in lights, as it were. 

Woodworkers achieved similar effects by combining ivory 
or bone with ebony, teak, and other precious woods. The 

"Prince on a Brown Horse," Mogul miniature painting, eighteenth 
century. Mogul emporers employed large numbers of painters 
who became known for their depictions of humans and animals in 
a naturalistic style. © The Burstein Collection/Corbis 

most expensive pieces of woodwork were mosque furnishings 
such as maqsuras (screens to enclose an area in front of the 
mihrab), minbars (pulpits), and Qur'an stands. The designs 
on these pieces were usually geometric, with elaborate inter- 
lacing and strapwork patterns. Perhaps the most stunning is 
the stupendous minbar made in 1137 at Cordoba for the 
Almoravid mosque in Marrakesh, which has thousands of 
individual panels meticulously carved in a variety of rare and 
exotic woods with arabesque designs. These panels were 
fitted flawlessly into a complex geometric scheme, so that the 
decoration can be equally appreciated from near and far away. 

Islamic ceramics are also notable for their wonderful 
colors. Potters constantly invented new and different tech- 
niques of over- and underglaze painting. Their finest effort 
was the development of the luster technique, in which vessels 
and tiles were painted with metallic oxides and then fired in a 
reducing atmosphere so that the oxygen burned away, leaving 
the shimmering metal on the surface. The technique may 
have been invented by glassmakers in Egypt and Syria in the 
eighth century, but soon passed to potters, who developed its 
full potential, first in ninth-century Iraq, then in Fatimid 
(969-1 171), Egypt, and finally in Iran. Luster potters work- 
ing there in the city of Kashan in the late twelfth and early 


islam and the Muslim World 


thirteenth centuries also developed the overglaze-painted 
technique known as minai or enameling, in which several 
colors and gold are painted on top of already-glazed wares, 
which are then fired a second time at a relatively low tempera- 
ture. Luster and minai ceramics represent the most expensive 
kind of pottery made in medieval times, for they required 
costly materials, special kilns, and extra fuel for a second 
firing. The techniques may well have been kept secret, and, to 
judge from signed works and treatises, the craft tradition 
passed down through certain families. 

The decorative combination of blue and white, so often 
identified with Chinese porcelains, derived from the Islamic 
lands where potters invented the technique of painting in 
cobalt under a transparent glaze. The technique, developed 
by the same Kashan potters working in Iran in the early 
thirteenth century, was then exported to China where it 
appears on blue-and-white porcelains made in the fourteenth 
century. Indeed, potters in the Islamic lands were constantly 
in competition with their colleagues in China, and ideas 
bounced back and forth from culture to culture. Thus, Kashan 
potters probably adopted an artificial or stone-paste body to 
imitate the hard body of porcelain, made by the Chinese with 
kaolin, an element not available in Iran and other Mus- 
lim lands. 

Various explanations have been proposed for this lavish 
use of color throughout much of Islamic art. Some scholars 
trace it to the drab and dusty landscape that pervades the 
heartland of Islam. (The word khaki, for example, derives 
from the Persian word meaning dusty or dust-colored.) This 
explanation is insufficient, however, as people from other 
desert or steppe regions do not necessarily value color as 
highly as Muslims do. Other scholars see the extensive use of 
color as evoking Paradise, described in the Qur'an as a rich 
and verdant place where men recline on silken pillows. 
Muslims, particularly mystics, often elaborated the symbolic 
values of color, but these values were often contradictory and 
meaningful only in specific geographical or chronological 
contexts. Black, for example, was adopted by the Abbasids as 
their standard, and their rivals, the Fatimids, adopted white. 
The auspicious or heavenly associations may have been out- 
weighed by practical considerations, since copper oxide, a 
ubiquitous coloring agent, produces a green color in a lead 
glaze and a turquoise blue color in an alkaline one. 

Writing. Of all the themes that run through Islamic art, the 
most important is writing. Islam, perhaps more than any 
other religion, values writing, and inscriptions permeate 
Islamic art more than any other artistic tradition. The value 
of the word is due to the sanctity of the revelation, and from 
earliest Islamic times virtually all types of Islamic art were 
decorated with writing, even when the medium makes it 
difficult to add an inscription. Sometimes writing supple- 
ments an image, but often writing is the sole type of decoration. 

The texts inscribed on works of Islamic art range in 
subject matter. Some contain verses from the Qur'an, Tradi- 
tions of the Prophet (called hadith in Arabic), and other 
religious texts. Others are short pious phrases recalling God's 
power and omnipotence (the most common is al-mulk lillah, 
dominion belongs to God) or invoking the name of the 
Prophet, his family, and other significant religious figures 
such as the Four Orthodox caliphs who succeeded Muham- 
mad as leaders of the Muslim community in the early seventh 
century. Probably the most common type of text inscribed on 
works of Islamic art comprises benedictions and good wishes, 
which can range from a single word (the most common is 
baraka, blessing) to long phrases with rhyming pairs of nouns 
and adjectives. 

These inscriptions, particularly on expensive pieces, some- 
times contain historical information, including the name of 
the patron, the date, the place the object was made, and even 
the name of the artist. Art historians always look for this type 
of information since it helps to localize a work of art, but it is 
important for other reasons as well. Historical information 
also implies that the work of art was a specific commission, 
made for a particular individual at a specific moment or to 
commemorate a specific event. The historical information 
also tells us in which direction to view a work of art, since this 
information is usually included at the end of the text. Signa- 
tures allow us to establish the biographies of artists, a type of 
person not generally recorded in histories and chronicles, and 
thereby fill out the artistic record. 

Many different styles of script were used to decorate 
works of Islamic art. Historical information was often written 
in a more legible rounded hand, because the patron or artist 
wanted his name to be clear. In contrast, aphorisms and pious 
phrases were often written in a more stylized angular script. 
Some might have been intended as puzzles designed to amuse 
or even tease the user. For example, a group of slip-covered 
earthenware vessels made in northeastern Iran and Central 
Asia in the ninth and tenth centuries (when the area was 
under the domination of the Samanid dynasty) is inscribed 
with aphorisms in Arabic such as "Knowledge is bitter to the 
taste at first, but sweeter than honey in the end" or "He who is 
content with his own opinion runs into danger." These 
aphorisms are written in brown or black against the cream 
slip in an extremely complex script in which the letters are 
stretched out or distorted and the strokes braided and inter- 
twined. The texts are very difficult to read, and somewhat like 
a modern cryptic puzzle; decipherment was part of the 
enjoyment they engendered. 

In other cases the difficulty in deciphering the inscriptions 
on a work of Islamic art may have been due to the artist's 
illiteracy. The person who drew up the inscription was not 
necessarily the same person who executed it on the work of 
art, and some artists may not have been literate, particularly 

islam and the Muslim World 



those of lower status who worked with cheaper materials in 
repetitive forms. A group of overglaze-painted earthenware 
vessels made in the Abbasid lands in the ninth century is often 
decorated in the center with a few lines of text containing 
blessings and the name of the potter. The texts are formulaic 
and often unreadable, with words cut off, and the inscriptions 
show that the pieces were not a specific commission but made 
for sale on the open market. Nevertheless, they are eloquent 
testimony for a world in which writing and written senti- 
ments were appreciated at all levels of society. 

See also Architecture; Calligraphy; Mihrab. 

Baer, Eva. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany: State 
University of New York Press, 1983. 

Baer, Eva. Islamic Ornament. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univer- 
sity Press, 1998. 

Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Inscriptions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh 
University Press, 1998. 

Blair, Sheila S., and Bloom, Jonathan M. The Art and Architec- 
ture of Islam: 1250-1800. New Haven, Conn, and London: 
Yale University Press, 1994. 

Bloom, Jonathan M., and Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Arts. Lon- 
don: Phaidon, 1997. 

Brend, Barbara. Islamic Art. London and Cambridge, Mass.: 
British Museum Press/Harvard University Press, 1991. 

Ettinghausen, Richard, Grabar, Oleg, and Jenkins-Madina, 
Marilyn. Islamic Art and Architecture: 650-1250. New 
Haven, Conn, and London: Yale University Press, 2001. 

Ferrier, R. W., ed. The Arts of Persia. New Haven, Conn, and 
London: Yale University Press, 1989. 

Golombek, Lisa. "The Draped Universe of Islam." In Content 
and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World. Edited by 
P. P. Soucek. University Park, Pa., and London: Pennsyl- 
vania State University Press, 1988. 

Grabar, Oleg. The Formation of Islamic Art. New Haven, 

Conn.: Yale University Press, 1973. 
Grabar, Oleg. The Mediation of Ornament. Princeton, N.J.: 

Princeton University Press, 1992. 

Hattstein, Markus, and Delius, Peter, eds. Islam: Art and 
Architecture. Cologne: Konemann, 2000. 

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Art and Architecture. London: 
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 

Irwin, Robert. Islamic Art in Context: Art, Architecture, and the 
Literary World. New York: Abrams, 1997. 

Pope, Arthur Upham, and Ackerman, Phyllis, tAs.A Survey of 
Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. London 
and New York: Oxford University Press, 1938-1939. 

Raby, Julian, ed. Catalogue of the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of 
Islamic Art. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1992. 

Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom, 


The English equivalent of the term 'asabiyya is akin to "social 
solidarity" or "tribal loyalty." It is an abstract noun that 
derives from the Arabic root c asab, meaning "to bind." It 
refers to a special characteristic or set of characteristics that 
defines the rather vague essence of what constitutes a particu- 
lar group. As a sociological principle, it would be especially 
significant within the political thought of Ibn Khaldun 
(1332-1406). Asabiyya, according to him, is the social bond 
that is particularly evident among tribal groups and is based 
more on social, psychological, physical, and political factors 
than on those of genetics or consanguinity. It is not unique 
among the Arabs; rather, each group possesses its own dis- 
tinct 'asabiyya. In this way, Ibn Khaldun identified a Jewish 
'asabiyya, a Greek 'asabiyya, and so on. He also perceived an 
intimate connection between 'asabiyya and religion. For a 
religion to be effective it must evoke a feeling of solidarity 
among all the members of the group. In this way one could 
have diverse 'asabiyyat; for example, an 'asabiyya to one's tribe, 
one's guild, and ultimately to one's religion. Ibn Khaldun 
argues that Islam brought a strong sense of 'asabiyya to the 
Arabs and was responsible for the benefits that Islamic civili- 
zation produced. 

See also Ibn Khaldun. 

Baali, Fuad. Society, State, and Urbanism: Ibn Khaldun's Socio- 
logical Thought. Albany: State University of New York 
Press, 1988. 

Aaron Hughes 


The Ash'arites, who were also known as al-Ash'ariyya, were 
the largest Sunni theological school, and were named after 
the school's founder, Abu '1-Hasan al-Ash'ari, who lived in 
the late ninth and early tenth centuries (873-935). Little is 
known of al-Ash'ari's personal and scholarly life. The most 
often repeated information in the sources is that at the age 
forty, after a series of visions, he changed his position in 
Islamic theology. He left his Mu'tazilite teacher Abu 'Ali al- 
Jubba'i over a theological dispute on divine grace and human 
responsibility (exemplified by the famous example of three 
brothers with different eschatological fates), and accepted the 
authority of Ahmad b. Hanbal. Al-Ash'ari thus adhered to the 
principles of the traditionalist Sunni majority (AM al-sunna 
wal-jama'a), although despite their opposition he defended 
the necessity of using rational argumentation, which was 
widely practiced by Mu'tazilites, in justifying these princi- 
ples. Following his conversion he even wrote a short treatise 


islam and the Muslim World 

Ash'arites, Ash'aira 

in favor of the argumentative method in Islamic theology. In 
combining Sunni doctrines with Mu'tazilite methodology he 
was regarded as the founder of the first and later dominant 
theological school among Sunnis. There were some other 
independent scholars who tried partly to apply rational meth- 
odology to Sunni doctrines before Al-Ash'ari, such as Ibn 
Kullab, Harith al-Muhasibi, and Abul-'Abbas al-Qalanisi, but 
they were not recognized as the masters of a school by later 
Sunni theologians. With the exception of the followers of the 
Hanafite theologian Abu Mansur al-Maturidi in Central Asia, 
almost all Sunni theologians were regarded as Ash'arite, 
although they departed from al-Ash'ari in some points. 

Al-Ash'ari's immediate students, Abu '1-Hasan al-Bahili, 
Ibn Mujahid al-Ta'i, and others, were not influential in the 
history of Ash'arism. However the following generation, 
among them Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 1013), Ibn Furak (d. 
1015), Abu Ishaq al-Isfara'ini (d. 1027), and 'Abd al-Qahir al- 
Baghdadi (d. 1037), played a major role in the formation of 
the school. Al-Baqillani, for instance, was regarded as the 
second founder, due to his contributions in rationalizing the 
Ash'arite school through his doctrines of atomism, nonexist- 
ence, and so on. 

Although Ash'arite scholars suffered for a while from the 
persecution of Buwayhid sultans and the Seljuk Wazir al- 
Kunduri in the eleventh century, their conditions rapidly 
changed shortly after gaining a wide support of the Seljuks 
during the time of the famous intellectual wazir Nizam al- 
Mulk. He established the Nizamiyya madrasa (school) in 
Nishapur, in which Ash'arite views were officially taught, and 
then spread to other parts of the Islamic world as far away as 
North Africa and Muslim Spain. At this time leading Ash'arite 
thinkers were Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 1085) and 
his student Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. Ill 1), both of whom 
taught at the Nizamiyya School. Al-Juwayni and al-Ghazali 
imported some philosophical terms and topics into Ash'arite 
kalam and legitimized the use of formal Aristotelian logic in 
both Islamic theological and legal theories. 

In the twelfth century, a philosophical trend dominated 
among the so-called modern or later theologians (al- 
muta' akhkhiruri). This trend gained in strength with the 
works of later independent-minded thinkers of the school, 
such as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209), Sayf al-Din al-Amidi 
(d. 1233), and Qadi al-Baydawi (d. 1286). Ash'arite thought 
came under the influence of Avicennan Neoplatonist cosmol- 
ogy and mostly absorbed the Islamic philosophical tradition 
in Sunni theology after a major but ineffective stand by the 
well-known philosopher Averroes. Thinkers of genius from 
Central Asia, especially 'Adud al-Din al-Iji (d. 1355) and his 
students Sa'd al-Din al-Taftazani (d. 1389) and Sayyid Sharif 
al-Jurjani (d. 1413), contributed to the interpretation and 
expansion of Ash c arite thought by producing large commen- 
taries throughout the fourteenth century. Ottoman thinkers 

of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, though officially 
Maturidite, also contributed to this philosophical production 
by their commentaries and marginal notes on the works of the 
above-named Central Asian Ash'arites. 

The Ash'arite school continued to exist in the seventeenth 
century in the works of the Egyptian al-Lakani and the Indian 
al-Siyalkuti. After a continuous modernization process in the 
Muslim world that took place in the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries, the Sunnis from both the Ash'arite and 
Maturidite traditions, such as Muhammad 'Abduh of Egypt, 
Shibli Nu'mani of India, and Izmirli Ismail Hakki of Otto- 
man Turkey, attempted a methodological renovation within 
Islamic theological thought. During this period of moder- 
nity, sectarian concerns and identities weakened among Mus- 
lim intellectuals, since they took an eclectic and broader 
approach in order to satisfy the demands of their age. The 
contemporary Muslim modernists followed their predeces- 
sors in detaching themselves from a strict identification with a 
particular school of thought. However, Ash'arism still con- 
tinues to maintain its existence in Sunni societies today. 

Ash'arite thinkers, following al-Mu'tazila, dealt with the 
main theological issues of Islamic faith, including arguments 
for the existence of God, divine unity, revelation, prophecy, 
and eschatology. They aimed to refute the opposing views of 
other religions and philosophical schools in a rational dialec- 
tical method. But they also discussed the controversial theo- 
logical issues first raised by the Mu'tazilites, such as the 
existence of attributes of God (sif at Allah), the nature of divine 
speech {kalam Allah), the possibility of seeing God in the 
future life (ru'y at Allah), the question of divine omnipotence 
and human free will (irada), and the fate of a believing sinner 
(murtakib al-kabira). In Ash'arite theology God has eternal 
attributes such as knowledge, speech, and sight, which are, in 
their system, essential for His knowing, speaking, or seeing. 
Since it belongs to his eternal attribute of speech, the Qur'an 
as God's word was uncreated. Unlike the traditionalist Sunni 
school and al-Ash'ari himself, later Ash'arites did not oppose 
the metaphorical interpretation of corporeal terms attributed 
to God in the Qur'an. As for the question of free will and 
predestination, Ash'arites took a middle position between the 
Mu'tazilites and Jabrites in emphasizing God's creation of 
human acts, which each person freely chooses. 

There are some differences between the Ash'arites and 
Maturidites, the second Sunni theological school, but they 
are usually regarded as methodological and nonessential. 
Ash'arites, for instance, rejected takviin (which means "to 
bring into existence") as a divine attribute, the eternalness of 
God's actions, unlike his attributes, and the necessity of 
believing in the existence and unity of God through rational 
arguments in the absence of divine revelation, which are 
among the Maturidite theses. 

See also Kalam; Mu'tazilites, Mu'tazila. 

islam and the Muslim World 

8 3 

Askiya Muhammad 


Frank, Richard M. "Bodies and Atoms: The Ash'arite Analy- 
sis." In Islamic Theology and Philosophy. Edited by Michael 
E. Marmura. Albany: State University of New York 
Press, 1984. 

Frank, RichardM. "The Science of Y^Am." Arabic Science and 
Philosophy 2 (1992): 7-37. 

Frank, Richard M. Al-Ghazali and theAsh'arite School. Durham, 
N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994. 

Gimaret, Daniel. La doctrine d'al-Ash c ari. Paris: Cerf., 1990 

Gwynne, Rosalind W. "Al-Jubba'i, al-Ash'ari and the Three 
Brothers: The Uses of Fiction." The Muslim World 75, no. 
3-4(1985): 132-161. 

Makdisi, George. "Ash'ari and the Ash'arites in Islamic Relig- 
ious History." Studia Islamica 17 (1962): 37-80. 

Makdisi, George. "Ash'ari and the Ash c arites in Islamic Relig- 
ious History." Studia Islamica 18 (1963): 19-39. 

Nakamura, Kojiro. "Was Ghazali an Ash'arite." InMemoirsof 
the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko. Tokyo: The 
Oriental Library, 1993. 

Watt, W. Montgomery. The Formative Period of Islamic Thought. 
Oxford, U.K.: Oneworld Press, 1998. 

Watt, W. Montgomery. "al-Ash'ariyya." In Vol. 1 , Encyclope- 
dia of Islam. 2d ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999. 

M. Sait Ozervarli 

(R. 1493-1529) 

The ruler of the Songhai Empire between 1493 and 1529, 
Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ture is also known as Askiya al-Hajj 
Muhammad, or Askiya Muhammad. His origins are debated. 
According to the two Tawarikh, or "histories" (Tarikh al- 
Sudan and Tarikh al-Fattash), he belonged either to the Ture 
or the Sylla clan of the Soninke. Because they were associated 
with trade, the Soninke were one of the earliest groups to 
convert to Islam south of the Sahara. Askiya al-Hajj Muham- 
mad overthrew the dynasty of the Sunni in 1493, and estab- 
lished the dynasty known as the Askiya who ruled the Songhai 
Empire from 1493 until the Moroccan invasion of the Songhai 
in 1591. Unlike his predecessor, Sunni 'Ali, Askiya Muham- 
mad was said to be a pious Muslim, and very supportive of 
Muslim scholars in Timbuctu, and other parts of Songhai. In 
1496, Askiya Muhammad set off for the pilgrimage to Mecca. 
On his way to Mecca, he visited Egypt, and was appointed by 
the Abbassid caliph al-Mutwakkil as his deputy to rule Songhai 
in his name. Askiya al-Hajj Muhammad consulted two major 
Muslim scholars on how to rule Songhai according to the 
shari'a. One of them was 'Abd al-Karim al-Maghili (d. 1503 
or 1504), and the other was Jalal al-din al-Suyuti (d. 1505). 
Askiya Muhammad extended the Songhai Empire to include 
tributary lands to the east, west, and north. No further 

expansion of the Songhai Empire occurred after his reign. He 
was deposed in 1528 by his son Musa. 

See also Africa, Islam in; African Culture and Islam. 

Hiskett, M. The Development of Islam in West Africa. London 
and New York: Longman, 1984. 

Hunwick, John, ed. Shari'a in Songhai: The Replies of Al- 
Maghili to the Questions ofAskia al-Hajj Muhammad. Oxford, 
U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1985. 

Ousmane Kane 


Asnam is the Arabic word for "idols" (sing., sanam). The 
origin of the term is found in the Semitic root S.L.M. (by a 
shift of / into n), which denotes "image." Hence, the Arabic 
sanam is basically the corporeal image of the deity. 

The term asnam occurs in the Qur'an, and in all instances 
but one it refers to the idols worshiped by Abraham's pagan 
adversaries (6:74; 21:57; 26:71). Twice the idols worshiped by 
the latter are called aivthan (sing., wathan; see 29:17, 25). 
Abraham's contemporaries worship the asnam/awthan "apart 
from" {min duni) God, which means that belief in these idols 
represents what the Qur'an labels elsewhere as shirk ("asso- 
ciation"), that is, worshiping deities that are considered God's 
associates. Three of God's "associates" are mentioned by 
name in another Qur'anic passage (53:19-23): Aflat, Manat, 
and al-'Uzza. The Qur'an sets out to deny that they were 
God's daughters, a typical element of shirk, and denounces 
them as sheer names. In yet another Qur'anic passage (71:23), 
five "gods" (aliha) worshiped by Noah's contemporaries are 
mentioned by name. 

In extra-Qur'anic sources, the dichotomy between the 
worship of the asnam and the monotheistic legacy of Ibrahim, 
the founder of the Ka'ba in Mecca, is retained. The traditions 
say that when Mecca became too small for the descendants of 
Abraham and Ishmael, they looked for dwellings outside 
Mecca, taking with them stones from the homeland, which 
they cherished and turned into idols. Nevertheless, according 
to these sources even far away from Mecca they preserved 
many of Abraham's values, such as the rites of the pilgrimage 
to Mecca, but they contaminated them with various elements 
of shirk. The shrines of some of these idols are said to have 
been built on the model of the Ka'ba, and sometimes were 
even called "Ka'ba." 

Conversely, idolatry is said to have been imported into 
Arabia from outside by one 'Amr b. Luhayy of the tribe of 
Khuza'a, who ruled in Mecca before the advent of Quraysh. 
He is said to have imported idols mainly from Syria. Among 


islam and the Muslim World 


them the five idols of Noah's time are mentioned. The 
establishment of the worship of Hubal at the Ka'ba is also 
attributed to this 'Amr. Names of numerous additional asnam 
are mentioned in the sources with details about the tribes who 
worshiped them. 

Of the three "daughters" of God, Manat is said to have 
been the first to be introduced in Arabia, then AJlat, then al- 
'Uzza. Manat's shrine was in Qudayd (near Mecca, on the 
Red Sea shore), Allat's in al-Ta'if, and al- c Uzza's in Nakhla. 
Pilgrims brought votive gifts to the shrines and sacrificial 
slaughter took place on special stones (nusub) there. 

Apart from the collective idols, some traditions speak 
about domestic asnam whose carved wooden images were 
held in each family household (dar) in Mecca. There are also 
reports about similar tribal and domestic idols in pre-Islamic 
Medina. The shrines of the main idols as well as the domestic 
images were reportedly destroyed in Muhammad's days, 
following the spread of Islam in Arabia. 

Modern scholars have doubted the historicity of the no- 
tion of Arabian idolatry being a deformed version of an initial 
Ibrahimic monotheism centered on the Ka c ba, and have 
rejected it as reflecting Qur'anic and Islamic concepts pro- 
jected back into remote pre-Islamic phases of history. On the 
other hand, other Islamicists noted the possibility that Ibrahim's 
image as a monotheistic prototype could have been known 
already in pre-Islamic Arabia. 

See also Allah; Shirk. 

Hawting, G. R. The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: 
From Polemic to History. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge 
University Press, 1999. 

Lecker, Michael. "Idol Worship in Pre-Islamic Medina 
(Yathrib)." LeMuseon 106 (1993): 331-346. 

Rubin, Uri. "The Ka'ba — Aspects of Its Ritual Functions." 
Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 8: 97-1 3 1 . 

Uri Rubin 


Assassins was a name originally applied by the Crusaders and 
other medieval Europeans, starting in the twelfth century, to 
the Nizari Isma'ilis of Syria. Under the initial leadership of 
Hasan Sabbah (d. 1124), the Nizaris founded a state centered 
at the stronghold of Alamut, in northern Iran, with a subsidi- 
ary in Syria. The Nizari state in Iran was destroyed by the 
Mongols in 1256. In Syria the Nizaris reached the peak of 
their power and glory under Rashid al-Din Sinan (d. 1 193), 
the original "Old Man of the Mountain" of the Crusaders, 
who had extended dealings with the Crusaders and their 

Frankish ruling circles in the Near East. The Syrian Nizaris 
permanently lost their political prominence when they were 
subdued by the Mamluks in the early 1270s. 

The Nizaris and the Crusaders had numerous military 
encounters in Syria from the opening decade of the twelfth 
century. But it was in Sinan's time (1163-1193) that the 
Crusaders and their occidental observers became particularly 
impressed by the highly exaggerated reports and widespread 
rumours about the Nizari assassinations and the daring be- 
havior of their fida'is, or devotees, who carried out suicide 
missions against their community's enemies in public places. 
The Nizari Isma'ilis became infamous in Europe as "the 
Assassins." This term, which appears in medieval European 
literature in a variety of forms (Assassini, Assissini, and 
Heyssisini), was evidently based on variants of the Arabic 
word hashishi (plural, hashishiyya or hashishin), which was 
applied pejoratively to the Nizaris of Syria and Iran by other 
Muslims. The term was used in the sense of "low-class 
rabble" or "people of lax morality" without claiming any 
special connection between the Nizaris and hashish, a prod- 
uct of hemp. This term of abuse was picked up locally in Syria 
by the Crusaders as well as by other European travelers and 
emissaries and was adopted to designate the Nizari Isma'ilis. 

Medieval Europeans, and especially the Crusaders, who 
remained generally ignorant of Islam and its divisions, were 
also responsible for fabricating and disseminating, in the 
Latin Orient as well as in Europe, a number of intercon- 
nected legends about the secret practices of the Nizaris, 
including the "hashish legend." It held that as part of their 
training this intoxicating drug was systematically adminis- 
tered to the fida'is by their beguiling chief, the "Old Man of 
the Mountain." The so-called Assassin legends revolved 
around the recruitment and training of the Nizari fida'is, 
who had attracted the Europeans' attention. These legends 
developed in stages and culminated in a synthesized version 
popularized by Marco Polo, who applied the legends to the 
Iranian Nizaris and created the "secret garden of paradise," 
where the fida'is supposedly received part of their indoctrina- 
tion. Henceforth, the Nizari Isma'ilis were portrayed in 
European sources as a sinister order of drugged assassins bent 
on senseless murder and mischief. 

Subsequently, Westerners retained the name Assassin in 
general reference to the Nizari Isma'ilis, even though the 
term had now become in European languages a new common 
noun meaning a professional murderer, although its etymol- 
ogy had been forgotten. Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838) finally 
succeeded in solving the mystery of the name Assassin and its 
etymology, but he and other orientalists subscribed variously 
to the Assassin legends. Modern scholarship in Isma'ili stud- 
ies, based on genuine Isma'ili sources, has now deconstructed 
the Assassin legends revealing their fanciful nature and also 
showing that the name Assassin is a misnomer rooted in a 
doubly pejorative appellation without basis in any communal 

islam and the Muslim World 



or organized use of hashish by the Nizari Isma'ilis or their 
fida'is, Shi'ite Muslims who were deeply devoted to their 

See also Crusades; Shi c a: Isma c ili. 

Daftary, Farhad. The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma'ilis. 
London: I. B. Tauris and Co., 1994. 

Lewis, Bernard. The Assassins: A Radical Sea in Islam. London: 
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967. 

Farhad Daftary 


Despite consistent critiques of astrology by Muslim scientists 
and religious scholars, astrological prognostications required 
a fair amount of exact scientific knowledge, and thus gave 
partial incentive for the study and development of astronomy. 
In the early Arabic sources, the term l ilm al-nujum was used to 
refer to both astronomy and astrology. Soon after, however, 
astronomy was unambiguously differentiated from astrology, 
and a clear terminological and conceptual distinction was 
made between the two sciences. The titles c ilm, al-falak (the 
science of the celestial orb) and Urn al-hay'a (the science of the 
configuration of heavens) were used to refer to the exact 
science of astronomy, while l ilm ahkam al-nujum (judicial 
astrology), or simply ^ilm al-nujum (the science of the stars), 
referred exclusively to astrology. Both fields were rooted in 
the Greek, Persian, and Indian traditions, and were cultivated 
for many centuries in Muslim societies. In all of these earlier 
traditions, interest in the science of astronomy has been 
closely connected to astrology. 

The connection between astronomy and astrology in the 
inherited scientific legacies was founded on the idea of a 
correlation between stellar configurations and events in the 
sub-lunar world. Thus, for example, the same cosmology 
underlying Ptolemy's Almagest — the most influential Greek 
astronomical work — provided the theoretical foundations of 
the Tetrabiblos, an influential astrological work by the same 
author. In Muslim societies, astrology continued to be prac- 
ticed and to draw on and encourage astronomical knowledge, 
and a good portion of the funding for astronomical research 
was motivated by the desire to make astrological predictions. 
A number of observatories were funded and founded for the 
professed objective of conducting observations that could be 
used in astrological computation. Astrology was also com- 
monly practiced in courts. In particular, one such form of 
court astrology was iktiyarat — a branch of astrology that 
aimed at determining the optimal astrological conditions for 
initiating large undertakings, such as the building of cities or 

the launching of military campaigns. Another popular form 
of astrological prediction was maivalid (nativities), which 
involves charting the horoscopes of the beginnings of both 
personal and collective occurrences, including the birth of 
individuals, as well as the birth of prophets, historical leaders, 
religions, and nations. The classic work of Arabic astrology is 
Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi's (d. 886) Kitab al-madkhal al-kabir 
(The great introduction). 

Yet, although astrology continued to have appeal within 
the elite political culture and in popular practice, the larger, 
socially based religious culture vehemently opposed it. More- 
over, while many astronomers served as court astrologers, 
many more condemned astrology and distanced themselves 
from it. Most of these astronomers did not treat astrology as a 
valid scientific discipline, and went out of their way to 
distance their exact science from it. Despite its continued 
practice, a clear line was drawn between astrology and astron- 
omy. Thus, of the hundreds of Arabic works dealing with the 
sciences of the stars, the vast majority are on astronomy, 
while only a small portion of this legacy relates to astrological 

See also Astronomy; Science, Islam and. 

Kennedy, E. S., and Pingree, David. The Astrological History 
of Masha'allah. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University 
Press, 1971. 

Pingree, David. The Thousands of Abu Ma'shar. London: The 
Warburg Institute, 1968. 

Saliba, George. "Astronomy, Astrology, Islamic." In Vol. 1, 
Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Edited by J. R. Strayer. New 
York: Scribners, 1978. 

Ahmad S. Dallal 


Before Islam, Arab knowledge of the stars was limited to the 
division of the year into precise periods on the basis of star 
risings and settings. This area of astronomical knowledge was 
known as aniva% and it was largely overshadowed by the 
traditions of Arabic mathematical astronomy that emerged in 
the Islamic period. From its beginnings in the ninth and 
through the sixteenth centuries, astronomical activity in the 
Muslim world was widespread and intensive. The first astro- 
nomical texts that were translated into Arabic in the eighth 
century were of Indian and Persian origin. The earliest extant 
Arabic astronomical texts date to the second half of the eighth 
century and were influenced by the Indian and Persian 
traditions. However, the greatest formative influence on 
Arabic astronomy is undoubtedly Greek, on account of the 
use in Greek astronomy of effective geometrical representa- 
tions. The Almagest of Ptolemy (second century c.e.), in 


islam and the Muslim World 


particular, exerted a disproportionate influence on all of 
medieval astronomy through the whole of the Arabic period 
and until the eventual demise of the geocentric astronomical 
system. However, at the same time the first Arabic translation 
of this text were prepared, original work of Arabic astronomy 
was also produced. Thus, original astronomical research went 
hand in hand with translation and, from its very beginnings in 
the ninth century, Arabic astronomy attempted to revise, 
refine, and complement Ptolemaic astronomy, rather than 
simply reproduce it. 

In its earlier stages, Arabic astronomy reworked and 
critically examined the observations and the computational 
methods of Greek astronomy and, in a limited way, was able 
to explore problems outside its set frame. Arabic astronomy 
witnessed further developments in the tenth and eleventh 
centuries as a result of systematic astronomical research as 
well as developments in other branches of the mathematical 
sciences. In this period, steps were also taken toward the 
establishment of large-scale observatories. Subsequendy, sev- 
eral programs of astronomical observations involved the 
establishment of observatories in institutional setups where 
collective programs of astronomical research were executed. 
Advances in trigonometry resulting from the full integration 
of the Indian achievements in the field, as well as from new 
discoveries in the tenth and eleventh centuries, played a 
central role in the further development of Arabic astronomy. 
As a great synthesis of the Greek, Indian, and Arabic astro- 
nomical traditions, the al-Qanun al-Mas'udi of the illustrious 
astronomer al-Biruni (973-c. 1048) represents the culmina- 
tion of this first stage in the development of Arabic astronomy. 

Following its systematic mathematization, the rethinking 
of the theoretical framework of astronomy was further devel- 
oped after the eleventh century, leading to a thorough evalua- 
tion of its physical and philosophical underpinnings. One of 
the main objectives of this reform tradition was to come up 
with models in which the motions of the planets could be 
generated as a result of combinations of uniform circular 
motions, while at the same time conforming to the accurate 
Ptolemaic observations. The Ptolemaic models were consid- 
ered defective because they posited physically impossible 
models in which spheres rotate uniformly around axes that do 
not pass through their centers. The reform tradition contin- 
ued well into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the list 
of astronomers working within it comprises some of the 
greatest and most original Muslim scientists. The work 
produced within this tradition had a formative influence on 
the work of Copernicus. 

In addition to theoretical astronomy, practical astronomi- 
cal problems occupied a great many astronomers who were 
responsible for significant advances in the field. Some of 
these problems had a specific Islamic character, whereas 
others had to do with the general practical needs of society. 
The general kind includes such problems as finding the 

The Great Bear, from a seventeenth-century Persian manuscript 
of the constellations, after the tenth-century Book of Stars by al- 
Husayn. Art Archive/National Library of Cairo/Dacli Orti 

direction of one locality with respect to another, a problem 
that requires determining the longitudes and latitudes of 
these localities as well as other aspects of mathematical 
geography. The "Islamic" problems, on the other hand, were 
problems related to Islamic worship such as determining the 
times of prayer, the time of sunrise and sunset in relation to 
fasting, the direction of the qibla (the direction of the Ka'ba in 
Mecca, which Muslims have to face during prayer), crescent 
visibility in connection with the determination of the begin- 
ning of the lunar month, and calendar computations. The 
methods employed to solve these problems varied from 
simple approximative techniques to complex mathemati- 
cal ones. 

Problems like the determination of the direction of the 
qibla and the times of prayer also gave a great impetus to the 
science and art of instrument building. Astrolabes, quadrants, 
compass boxes, and cartographic grids of varying degrees of 
sophistication were designed and introduced to solve some of 
these problems. Many of these same instruments were also 
used for other astronomical observations and computations; 
the most important of these is the astrolabe, which was a 
versatile medieval observational instrument and calculator. 
Extensive tables were also compiled in connection with time 
keeping, finding the direction of the qibla, and other astro- 
nomical functions. 

islam and the Muslim World 



See also Astrology; Biruni, al-; Hijri Calendar; Science, 
Islam and; Translation. 


King, David. Astronomy in the Service of Islam. Aldershot, 
Hampshire, U.K.: Variorum, 1993. 

Rashed, Roshdi, ed., in collaboration with Morelon, Regis. 
Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, Vol. 1: 
Astronomy — Theoretical and Applied. London and New York: 
Routledge, 1996. 

Saliba, George. A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theo- 
ries During the Golden Age of Islam. New York: New York 
University Press, 1994. 

Samso, Julio. Islamic Astronomy and Medieval Spain. Aldershot, 
Hampshire, U.K.: Variorum Reprints, 1994. 

Ahmad S. Dallal 


Atabat, or exalted thresholds, are the Shi'ite shrine cities 
located in modern Iraq. The 'atabat contain the tombs of six 
of the Shi'ite imams as well as other pilgrimage sites. The 
'atabat are located in Najaf, Karbala, Kazamayn, and Samarra. 
Najaf is the burial place of 'Ali b. Abi Talib, cousin and son- 
in-law of the prophet Muhammad, and first in the line of 
Shi'ite imams, who died in 661 c.e. Karbala is where Husayn, 
'Ali's son and the third imam, was martyred in a battle against 
the Umayyads (r. 661-750 c.e.) in 680 c.e. It is a cornerstone 
of Shi'ite belief that Husayn, courageous and principled, 
went to battle against all odds, and his demise prefigures and 
embodies the fate of all those who take an active stand against 
oppression and injustice. The site of Husayn's martyrdom 
had emerged as a Muslim holy site by the middle of the 
seventh century. Kazamayn entered the sacred landscape of 
Shi'ism in the ninth century, as the burial site of the seventh 
and ninth imams, Musa al-Kazim (d. 802 c.e.) and Moham- 
mad al-Taqi (d. 834 c.e.). Kazamayn is also the burial site of 
many a medieval Shi'ite luminary. Samarra, which lies at a 
distance from the rest of the 'atabat, contains the tombs of the 
tenth and eleventh imams, Ali al-Naqi (d. 868 c.e.) and Hasan 
al-'Askari (d. 873 c.e.). The twelfth imam entered occultation 
in Samarra in 941 c.e. 

The 'atabat are also significant as centers of Shi'ite learn- 
ing. Najaf has housed, since the time of the Shaykh al-Ta'ifa 
Abu Ja'far Muhammad Tusi in the eleventh century, several 
educational institutions whose scholarly and financial net- 
works have played an important role in determining intellec- 
tual and political trends in modern Shi'ism. 

Under Ottoman and later under Iraqi control, the 'atabat 
have served in recent history as havens against government 

persecution for those Iranian Shi'ite scholars of the Qajar and 
the early Pahlevi periods who have spoken out against the 
ruling establishment at home. Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader 
of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, was exiled to the 'atabat 
(Najaf) by Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi in 1963. In turn, 
after the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, those 
clerics opposed to the religious and political stance of the 
ruling hierarchy of the Islamic Republic have used the 'atabat 
as relatively secure bases from which to continue their doctri- 
nal warfare against the religious establishment in Iran. How- 
ever, it must also be borne in mind that since the 1980s, the 
Shi'ite community and religious leaders resident in the 'atabat 
were themselves targeted by the Ba'thist government of 
former President Saddam Husayn in Iraq. Minority leaders, 
the ulema of the 'atabat, especially of Najaf and Karbala, have 
been subjected to numerous incarcerations and assassina- 
tions, intensified in the wake of the first Gulf War (1991). 

Another important feature in the social fabric of the 
'atabat, directly related to their centrality in settling doctrinal 
orthodoxy and implementing political agendas, is the vast 
network of patronage and the nature of finances in the shrine 
cities. These networks are comprised mainly of donations and 
religious dues provided by the Shi'ite communities world- 
wide, with significant portions from the merchant classes of 
northern India, to the maraji' al-taqlid who reside there. 

See also Holy Cities; Mashhad. 

Cole, Juan R. I. "Indian Money and the Shii Shrine Cities of 
Iraq, 1186-1950." Middle Eastern Studies 22 (1986): 461-480. 

Litvak, Meir. Shi'i Scholars of Nineteenth-Century Iraq, The 
'Ulama' of Najaf and Karbala. Cambridge, U.K.: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1986. 

Neguin Yavari 


Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) was born in 1881 into a family of 
modest means in Salonica, then an Ottoman port city in what 
is today a city in Greece. He died in Istanbul on 1 0 November 
1938. His father, 'Ali Riza Bey, was a progressive person and 
worked at the customs house. His mother, Zubeyde Hanim, 
was a devout Muslim who instilled Islamic values in young 
Mustafa. Only seven years old at the death of his father, he 
was raised by his mother and completed his early education at 
local schools. In 1893 he began his studies at a military 
secondary school where his teacher gave him his second 
name, Kemal (perfection), owing to Mustafa's outstanding 
performance in mathematics. Two years later he attended the 


islam and the Muslim World 

Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal 

military academy in Manastir and later entered the War 
Academy. He graduated in 1 905 with the rank of staff captain, 
and in 1906 was assigned to the Fifth Army in Damascus. In 
1907 his duties took him to Macedonia where he established 
connections with the Young Turks. He participated in the 
defense of Tripolitania at Tobruk and Derna against the 
Italian invasion (1911-1912), was appointed as a military 
attache to Sophia, and returned to Istanbul to distinguish 
himself at the Dardanelles in 1915. During World War I, he 
served on various fronts such as the Caucasus, Palestine, 
and Aleppo. 

Rejecting the Mudros Armistice (30 October 1918), which 
the Allied powers had imposed on the Ottomans, Mustafa 
Kemal moved on to Anatolia in May 1919 to begin his 
nationalist struggle against the invasion and partition of the 
country. That same year, at the congresses of Erzurum (23 
July) and Sivas (4 September), he defined the nationalist 
demands and goals for independence. It was during this 
period that he molded various regional paramilitary defense 
associations into a nationalist army. On 23 April 1920, he 
established the Great National Assembly in Ankara, claiming 
exclusive legitimacy in representing the Turkish interests. He 
was unanimously elected the first president of the assembly. 
During the War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal served as 
the commander in chief of the armed forces. 

The Armistice of Mudanya (11 October 1922) sealed the 
victory of the Turkish forces. Within days, the assembly 
abolished the sultanate (1 November 1922), though leaving 
the caliphate in the Ottoman House. The Lausanne Confer- 
ence (November 1922-July 1923) recognized Turkey's full 
independence and defined its borders. On 23 October 1923, 
the Second Grand National Assembly, controlled by Halk 
Firkasi (People's Party, later Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi — 
Republican People's Party) proclaimed the republic and 
elected Mustafa Kemal its first president. Thus a six hundred- 
year-old political tradition was brushed aside, and sover- 
eignty placed directly in the hands of the people. 

The early years of the republic witnessed fundamental 
political and social changes. Determined to modernize and 
secularize his country, and intent upon breaking away from 
the past, the assembly, under Mustafa Kemal's guidance, 
passed a number of laws that brought revolutionary changes. 
In 1924, the same year that the caliphate was abolished, the 
Ministry of Seriat (Islamic law) was dismantled and replaced 
by the Ministry of Justice. In 1925, the Gregorian Calendar 
replaced the Islamic one, and the fez, which had come to 
symbolize Islamic headgear, was banned. The wearing of the 
veil by women was strongly discouraged. The dervish (Sufi) 
orders were dissolved. The adoption of Swiss Civil Code in 
1926 completely negated the Islamic laws of marriage, di- 
vorce, and inheritance that had been in practice for centuries. 
The replacement of the Arabic script with the Latin script in 
1928 closed the door to the Ottoman past, and compelled the 

Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk (1880-1930), was elected as 
Turkey's first president. He transformed Turkey from a traditional 
society into a modern one by secularizing previously Islamic 
institutions and laws. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis 

Turks to look to the future. The passage, in 1934, of a law 
requiring Turks to use family names further underscored this 
trend; indeed, Mustafa Kemal's own surname of Ataturk 
(Father of Turks) was bestowed upon him by the National 
Assembly. In the same year, women were given the right to 
vote. In foreign policy, Turkey followed Mustafa Kemal's 
dictum: "Peace at Home, Peace in the World." 

Mustafa Kemal's reforms were revolutionary. The poli- 
cies of his Republican People's Party were expressed in six 
principles: republicanism, nationalism, populism, etatism, 
secularism, and revolutionism. Within these principles Tur- 
key was transformed from a traditional society into a modern 
nation state. Secularism received particular attention. The 
Kemalist regime relentlessly pursued secularist policies and 
dismantled the Islamic institutions. In view of the founder of 
the new Turkish Republic, centuries-old Islamic institutions 
and laws could not sufficiently serve the needs of a modern 
society. Mustafa Kemal believed that Islam would be best 
served if it were confined to belief and worship rather than 
brought into the affairs of the state. In his address to the 
nation on the tenth anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 
1933, he promised further progress and asked Turks to 
"judge time not according to the lax mentality of past centu- 
ries, but in terms of the concepts of speed and movement of 
our century." 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Awami League 

See also Nationalism: Turkish; Revolution: Modern; 
Secularism, Islamic; Young Turks. 


Mango, Andrew. Ataturk. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook, 2000. 

Walker, Barbara, et al. To Set Them Free: The Early Years of 
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Grantham, N.H.: Tompson and 
Rutter, 1981. 

A. Uner Turgay 


The Awami (People's) League was founded by Husain Shaheed 
Suhrawardy in June 1949 in the East Bengal (renamed East 
Pakistan in 1955) province of Pakistan. H. S. Suhrawardy 
gathered senior members of the Muslim League whose power 
had diminished in their own party and young, ambitious 
politicians who were opposed to communalism in Pakistan. 
Both groups, however, were united in the belief that the 
Muslim League, which spearheaded Pakistan's independence 
movement, no longer represented the needs of the majority 
of the populace. 

In 1949, though barely two years old, Pakistan was already 
plagued by economic, political, and social disparities between 
its two major regional wings. This strife was further com- 
plicated by the geographical complexity consisting of the 
four provinces in the west (Northwest Frontier Province, 
Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sindh) with East Bengal in the east, 
which was separated by approximately one thousand miles of 
India. Some of the first signs of hostilities between East and 
West Pakistan arose as early as 1948 when Muhammad 'Ali 
Jinnah, the central architect of the creation of Pakistan, 
visited the eastern province and proceeded to criticize Bengalis 
for not learning Urdu, the lingua franca of West Pakistan. 
Tensions in the regions continued to escalate and in 1952 
student efforts to make Bengali a recognized national lan- 
guage led to violent clashes with the police resulting in the 
deaths of four Dhaka University students. This tragic event 
further intensified the cultural divide that haunted this 
young nation. 

The people of West Pakistan generally associated the 
Bengali language with a Hindu India and, therefore, believed 
that Bengalis should be obligated to learn Urdu, a language 
clearly associated with Islam. Furthermore, West Pakistani 
officials deemed Bengali to be closely aligned with pro-Indian 
sentiment, which was highly unpopular in West Pakistan. 
This fear and suspicion of Bengali Muslims contributed to 
West Pakistan's refusal to cede many of the demands of 
Bengali Muslims. They therefore resisted efforts to recognize 
Bengali as a national language until 1954. 

The desperate economic situation plaguing East Pakistan 
fostered the belief among its inhabitants that their province 
was being treated as a colony instead of as an equal partner in 
the burgeoning nation. Although East Pakistan experienced 
significant economic growth, the province reaped little of the 
pecuniary benefits with most of the national expenditures 
directed toward West Pakistan. Furthermore, few Bengalis 
held important positions in the administration with even 
fewer represented in the military. These escalating tensions 
precipitated the unprecedented move of a splinter group, 
consisting of East Pakistani politicians, to create a new 
political party to achieve the common goals of the Bengali 

In 1949 Husain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Ataur Rahman, 
Maulana Bashani, Shamsul Huq, and Shaykh Mujibur Rahman 
co-founded the Awami Muslim league. It was the first party 
truly to provide alternate representation for the people of 
East Pakistan. In the late 1950s it changed its name to the 
Awami League, welcoming non-Muslims into its fold, thus 
marking a significant shift toward secularism. By 1956 the 
Awami League was the most popular party in East Pakistan 
and became the Muslim League's main contender for power. 

From 1958 to 1971 Pakistan was reduced to an adminis- 
trative state with four years of martial law and a diminished 
role for its fledgling political parties. In February of 1966 
Shaykh Mujibur Rahman, the dominant figure in the Awami 
League, presented the "Six Point Demand" to the other 
political parties desiring to work collectively to oust the West 
Pakistani government of Muhammad Ayub Khan. The de- 
mands called for separate but equal federation of powers 
between East and West Pakistan, governed by a parliament 
elected on the basis of one person/one vote throughout both 
parts of Pakistan. Gaining the support of the Awami League 
was equivalent to gaining the support of East Pakistan, but 
Mujib was only willing to put the Awami League's support 
behind the coalition if the coalition from West Pakistan was 
willing to support his "Six Point Demand" (see Mujibur, 
Appendix 2, pp. 127-128). 

For the Bengalis the "Six Point Demand" clearly and 
concisely reflected goals that would balance powers between 
the two regions and place Bengalis on an equal footing with 
their brethren in the western province. Consequently, this 
"Six Point Demand" consolidated Bengali support for the 
Awami League. However, it was simultaneously viewed by 
those in West Pakistan as a document that would work 
against the tenets laid out in the creation of a united Pakistan. 

In Pakistan's first general election in December 1970 the 
Awami League won 167 of the 169 National Assembly seats 
allotted to East Pakistan. This landslide victory was due in 
part to other parties boycotting the elections. In West Paki- 
stan, Zulfiqar Ali Khan Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party won 
83 of the 131 seats allotted to that province. With this Awami 
League victory, the National Assembly should have been able 


islam and the Muslim World 

Awami League 

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, activists for the Awami League, one of the 
country's two dominant political parties, shout anti-government 
slogans, protesting the removal of portraits of Shaykh Mujibar 
Rahman, Bangladesh's independence hero and a founder of the 
Awami League. In addition to the Awami's rival party, the BNP, 
there are more than twenty smaller political parties in Bangladesh. 
AP/Wide World Photos 

to push through the "Six Point Demand" swiftly. Instead, 
General Yahya Khan (who served as martial law administra- 
tor from 25 March 1969 until 20 December 1971) postponed 
the convening of the National Assembly. This led to an 
outbreak of violence, the arrest of Shaykh Mujib on charges 
of treason, and the eventual war for independence resulting in 
Bangladesh's declaration of independence on 16 Decem- 
ber 1971. 

Shaykh Mujib, also known as Bangabandhu ("Friend of 
Bengal"), ruled Bangladesh as its first prime minister until his 
assassination on 1 5 August 1975. He is remembered as a great 
charismatic leader successful in creating the ideological base 
that united and defined a nation. The constitution of 
Bangladesh was framed upon Shaykh Mujib's four principles 
of democracy, socialism, secularism, and nationalism. Yet 
after independence he was unable to move the country 

forward economically or democratically. Less than a year 
after independence, Shaykh Mujib was accused of being 
ineffectual — a criticism which further contributed to his 
decision to limit the Bangladeshi multiparty system. Further 
leading to Mujib's downfall was the famine of 1974. In 
January 1975 the constitution was amended to make Mujib 
president for five years, giving him full executive authority. A 
few months later he created the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik 
Awami League (BAKSAL, Bangladesh Farmers, Workers, 
and People's League) while simultaneously outlawing all 
other political parties. He then created a paramilitary force 
called the Rakhi Bahini, which was known for its intimidation 

Under Mujib's rule, the Awami League faltered in meet- 
ing its goals and consequently lost its popularity with the 
people. However, after Mujib's death, Bangladesh experi- 
enced a number of military coups and counter-coups, result- 
ing in a resurgence of the Awami League's popularity in the 
1980s. Consequently, in June 1996 the League won an overall 
majority in the Parliament with Shaykh Hasina Wajid, daughter 
of Shaykh Mujib, sworn in as prime minister. During her 
tenure in office, Wajid had sought to prosecute her father's 
killers and attempted to put forward a pro-democracy plat- 
form and pro-socialist economy that encouraged a private 
sector. Consequendy, the League's rivals often accused it of 
being too pro-India and secular. 

In 1977 Ziaur Rahman, one of Bangladesh's most-decorated 
major generals during the war for independence, became 
Chief Martial Law Administrator and president of Bangladesh 
from 1977 until his assassination in May 1981. He was also 
the founder of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). In his 
first year in office Ziaur Rahman amended the constitution, 
created by the Awami League government in 1972, to make 
Islam, and not secularism, one of its guiding principles, a 
move that ushered in an era of warmer relations between 
Bangladesh and Pakistan. Today, there are currently more 
than twenty political parties in Bangladesh with varying 
platforms emphasizing communism, secularism, and Islamic 
interests. However, the Awami League, and its main rival, the 
BNP, continue to dominate national politics. The BNP, led 
by Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, runs on a platform 
that favors democracy and is more oriented toward Islam. As 
this young nation strives to develop its political system, the 
question of whether the state should be secular or Islamic 
continues to dictate political discourse. 

See also Pakistan, Islamic Republic of; South Asia, 
Islam in. 


Ahamed, Emajuddin. Bangladesh Politics. Dhaka: Centre for 
Social Studies, 1980. 

Baxter, Craig. Bangladesh. Boulder, Colo.: Westview 
Press, 1980. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Ayatol lah 

Baxter, Craig. Bangladesh: A New Nation in an Old Setting. 
Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984. 

Khan, Mohmmad Mohabbat, and Thorp, John P., eds. 
Bangladesh: Society, Politics & Bureaucracy. Dacca, 
Bangladesh: Center for Administrative Studies, 1984. 

Maniruzzaman, Talukdar. "Bangladesh Politics: Secular and 
Islamic Trends." In Islam in Bangladesh: Society, Culture 
and Politics. Edited by Rafiuddin Ahmed. Dacca: Bangladesh 
Itihas Samiti, 1983. 

Mascarenhas, Anthony. Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood. Lon- 
don: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986. 

Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh. Bangladesh, My Bangladesh: Selected 
Speeches and Statements. Edited by Ramendu Majumdar. 
New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1972. 

Sisson, Richard, and Rose, Leo E. War and Secession: Pakistan, 
India and the Creation of Bangladesh. Berkeley: University 
of California Press, 1990. 

Ziring, Lawrence. Bangladesh: From Mujib to Ershad. An 
Interpretive Study. New York: Oxford University Press, 1 992 . 

Sufia Uddin 


The term ayatollah (Ar. ayatullah), literally "Sign of God," 
refers to high-ranking scholars within the Twelver Shi'ite 
tradition. The term emerged in the early modern period (late 
19th century) to describe the elite of the Shi'ite scholarly 
community. In modern works, many early Shi'ite scholars 
were anachronistically given the rank of ayatollah. Ayatollahs 
are nearly always experts in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and 
are normally required to have written extensively in this area. 
The requirements for qualification as an ayatollah are not 
entirely clear in traditional descriptions of the Shi'ite hierar- 
chy, though the rank of ijtihad and associated qualifications of 
learning are often mentioned. Ijtihad is a condition, though 
not everyone who has attained it will be called "ayatollah." 
The vagueness is due to absence of rigid ranks in the Shi'ite 
hierarchy. Before and since the Islamic Revolution in Iran 
(1979), the term "grand ayatollah" was used for the "sources 
of imitation." Since the revolution, there has been a tremen- 
dous increase in the use of the term for the Iranian cleri- 
cal elite. 

Ayatollahs are found at the apex of the scholarly structure, 
having studied in traditional seminaries (madrasas) and hav- 
ing passed through a number of intermediate ranks (among 
which is Hojjat al-Islam). A scholar seems to be granted the 
rank of ayatollah through general agreement among the 
scholars. A person might be referred to as ayatollah by one 
writer and, when no one disputes the appellation, most 
scholars subsequently refer to him as ayatollah. An ayatollah, 
theoretically, holds this rank until he dies, though in recent 
times, ayatollahs (such as ayatollahs Shari'atmadari and 

Muntazeri in Iran) have lost their status after serious disputes 
with supposedly higher-ranking Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. 

See also Hojjat al-Islam; Khomeini, Ruhollah; Marja c 
al-Taqlid; Shi c a: Imami (Twelver). 


Mottahedeh, Roy. The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and 
Politics in Iran. London: Chatto and Windus, 1986. 

Robert Gleave 


Al-Azhar is a mosque and a university founded in Cairo by the 
Fatimid Isma'ili imam and caliph al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah (d. 
975). Today it is the most important religious university in 
the Muslim world, and it is one of the oldest universities ever 
founded for both religious and secular studies. After the 
conquest of Egypt (969), Jawhar al-Siqilli founded al-Qahira 
(Cairo), where he built the mosque that was first known as 
jami c al-Qahira (the mosque of Cairo). The mosque was 
completed in nearly two years and first opened its doors in 
972. It had one minaret and occupied half the area of the 
present day al-Azhar mosque. Since then, it has become one 
of the most well known mosques in the Muslim world. Its 
name is an allusion to Zahra 3 (The Radiant), a title given to 
Fatima, the daughter of prophet Muhammad. Al-Azhar be- 
gan to acquire its academic and scholastic nature in 975, 
during the reign of al-Mu'izz when the Qadi Abu '1-Hasan 
c Ali ibn al-Nu'man al-Qayrawani sat in the court of al-Azhar 
and read the Kitab al-iqtisar (a work of Shi c ite jurisprudence, 
or fiqh), written by his father, Abu Hanifa al-Nu'man. Al- 
Nu 'man's family formed the intellectual elite of the Fatimids 
and became the first teacher in al-Azhar. 

In 998, al-Azhar moved a step further toward becoming an 
Islamic university. The Fatimid caliph al-'Aziz Billah ap- 
proved a proposal by his trusted minister Ya'qub ibn Killis to 
establish an educational system. He assigned a number of 
regular teachers to carry out an educative mission. The 
teachers were trained by Ibn Killis and his system became the 
core of the academic education at al-Azhar. Furthermore, 
these teachers followed an organized curriculum and they 
received regular payments from the Fatimid government. 
The teaching was not limited to the religious sciences, but 
included discussions and free debates between scientists. 
Thus al-Azhar acquired the characteristics of an academic 
university. The diversified courses were a part of the teaching 
curriculum (the jurisprudence of four different schools of law, 
Arabic language, and literature). When the Ayyubid dynasty 
(1 169-1252) took power, they wanted to erase every trace of 
the Fatimids. Al-Azhar's reputation did not cease growing 
and the Shi'ite view was eclipsed by the Sunni interpretation 


islam and the Muslim World 

Azhar, al- 

of faith. Later, al-Azhar became the most important Sunni 
center of knowledge. 

Under the reign of the Mamluks, between 1250 and 1517, 
many scientists sought refuge in al-Azhar, and were received 
with open arms. The arrival of these scientists undoubtedly 
contributed to the enrichment of its teaching; al-Azhar had 
its golden age during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 
Sciences such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, geogra- 
phy, and history were studied there. 

In 1822 the educational system was regulated and the 
highest diploma then delivered by al-Azhar was called al- 
'alamiyya, which was equivalent to a doctorate. In 1950, al- 
Azhar's educational system was divided into three faculties: 
Islamic law (al-shari'a), principles of the religion (usul al-din), 
and Arabic language. In 1961, besides its teaching of Islamic 

sciences, al-Azhar opened technical and practical faculties to 
teach medicine, engineering, agriculture, and other subjects. 
This widening of teaching was intended to make al-Azhar 
radiate not only in religious sciences but also in scientific 
disciplines. However, the addition of a modern, non-traditional 
curriculum was controversial among more conservative Mus- 
lim intellectuals. 

See also Education; Madrasa; Zaytuna. 

Lapidus, Ira M. Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages. 

Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967. 
Tritton, A. S. Materials on Muslim Education in the Middle 

Ages, London: Luzac, 1957. 

Diana Steigerwald 

islam and the Muslim World 

9 3 


The Babi movement began during a period of heightened 
chiliastic expectation for the return of the Twelfth Imam (or 
Hidden Imam), who Shi'ite Muslims believe will fill the 
world with justice. As such, the movement attracted not only 
students of religion, but members from all strata of society 
who probably sought change in the existing order. 

The initial converts to the Babi movement were mid- to 
low-level clerics from the Shaykhi school of Twelver Shi'ite 
Islam. The school, founded upon the teachings of Shaykh 
Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, was mainstream with regard to Shi'ite law, 
Akhbari in its veneration for the utterances ascribed to the 
twelve imams, and theosophical in its approach to metaphysi- 
cal matters. Shaykh Ahmad's successor, Sayyed Kazem, de- 
veloped the eschatological teachings of his predecessor and 
taught that the advent of the "promised one" was imminent, 
although he did not specify if this figure was to be an 
intermediary of the hidden imam or the imam himself. 

On 22 May 1844, c Ali Mohammad, a young merchant who 
had briefly attended the classes of Sayyed Kazem in Karbala, 
told a fellow Shaykhi disciple, Mulla Hosayn Boshrui, that he 
was the "gate" (bob) of the Hidden Imam and wrote an 
extemporaneous commentary on the Qur'anic Sura of Joseph, 
the Qayyum al-asma', to substantiate his claim. So impressed 
was Molla Hosayn and other students of Sayyed Kazem with 
the eloquence and learning of Ali Mohammad and his ability 
to produce verses (ayai) at great speed and with no apparent 
forethought that they publicly endorsed his claims to be the 
gate of the Hidden Imam, while privately they believed that 
his station was much higher. The exact nature of the Bab's 
claims remained a matter of controversy during the first four 
years of his seven-year prophetic career. Although he initially 
made no explicit claim to prophethood, he implicitly claimed 
to receive revelation by emulating the style of the Qur'an in 
the Qayyum al-asma' . 

After the formation of the first core of believers, who, 
along with the Bab, were referred to as the first Vahed 
(Unity), the group dispersed at his instruction to proclaim the 
advent of the Bab, whose new theophany was to be initiated 
by his pilgrimage to Mecca, reaching a crescendo with his 
arrival in the holy cities of Iraq. The Bab instructed Molla 
Hosayn to disseminate his teachings in Iran and deliver the 
Qayyum. al-asma' to the shah and his chief minister. Another 
disciple was sent to Azerbaijan, while others were instructed 
to return to their homes to spread the new message. The 
majority of the Bab's first disciples departed for Iraq, includ- 
ing Molla Ali Bastami, who was sent as a representative to the 
holy cities. There, he preached the new message in public. As 
a result, both the messenger and the author of the message 
were condemned as heretics in a joint fatwa by prominent 
Sunni and Shi'ite ulema in Iraq. 

Following this episode, the Bab decided not to meet with 
his followers in Karbala as he had planned so as not to further 
raise the ire of an already enraged clerical establishment. This 
led to the disaffection of some of his more militant followers, 
who were expecting the commencement of a holy war. It also 
emboldened the Bab's critics, particularly the rival claimants 
for leadership of the Shaykhi community. 

Persecution of the Babis in Iran began in 1 845 and the Bab 
himself was confined to his home in June 1845. During this 
period he was forced to publicly deny certain claims that had 
been attributed to him, which he was willing to comply with 
since his actual claim was much more challenging, as wit- 
nessed in his later epistles and public statements, particularly 
from 1848 onward. By asserting that he was the recipient of 
revelation and divine authority, whether explicitly or implicidy 
by emulating the style of the Qur'an, the Bab challenged the 
right of the ulema to collect alms on behalf of the Hidden 
Imam and interpret scripture in his absence. Further, his 
claim to be the Qa'im (the one who rises at the end of time), 
made explicit at his public trial in Tabriz, indirectly threat- 
ened the stability of the Qajar monarchy of Iran, which held 

9 5 

Bab, Sayyed 'AM Muhammad 

power as the Shadow of God on earth and depended upon the 
quiescent Shi'ite clergy for legitimacy. 

Despite the hostility of much of the high-ranking clergy, 
the Bab continued to win converts from among the ulema, 
including two very prominent personalities: Sayyed Yahya 
Darabi and Molla Mohammad c Ali Hojjat al-Islam Zanjani. 
In 1846, he managed to leave Shiraz and make his way to the 
home of the governor of Isfahan, Manuchehr Khan Mo'tamad 
al-Dawla, a Georgian Christian convert to Islam who sympa- 
thized with the Bab's cause. There, he enjoyed increasing 
popularity, which further roused the ulema, who incited the 
shah against the Bab. Following the death of his patron, he 
was placed under arrest. From this point on, the charismatic 
persona of the Bab was removed from the public arena, as he 
was transferred from prison to prison until his final execution 
at the hands of government troops on 9 July 1850. 

Although the Bab continued to influence the movement 
from prison through the dissemination of thousands of pages 
of writing, leadership of the community devolved upon his 
chief lieutenants, notably Molla Hosayn, Molla Mohammad 
'Ah Barforushi (also known as the Qoddus, "the Most Holy"), 
Qorrat al- c Ayn, the well-known poetess (also known as 
Tahereh, "the Pure One"), Darabi, Zanjani, and Mirza Hosayn 
c Ali Nuri (later known as Baha'allah). The latter, together 
with Qoddus and Tahereh, presided over a decisive meeting 
of Babis at Badasht, where a formal break with Islamic law was 
initiated when Tahereh publicly removed her veil. She was 
later put to death in 1 852 upon the orders of the government, 
ratified by leading doctors of law. Qoddus would also die at 
the instigation of some members of the ulema following his 
capture at the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi, where he, Molla 
Hosayn, and an embattled group of Babis defended them- 
selves against government troops in the province of Khurasan. 
Molla Hosayn and most of the fort's defenders lost their lives 
there. Similarly, Darabi and Zanjani led large groups of Babis 
in armed resistance to government troops at Nayriz and 
Zanjan, but ultimately met the same fate as their fellow 
believers. In 1852, as a result of an assassination attempt on 
the life of Naser al-Din Shah by some Babis, several hundred 
to a few thousand of the Bab's followers were brutally exe- 
cuted or imprisoned. Among them was Mirza Husayn c Ali 
Nuri, the future Baha'allah, who suffered a four-month 
captivity in a darkened pit (siyah chat), followed by exile to Iraq. 

Although the demographic makeup of the Babi movement 
cannot be determined with precision, it is safe to say that it 
was largely an urban movement with significant concentra- 
tions of converts in rural areas. While it initially drew upon 
Shaykhi ulema, it later attracted followers from a range of 
social classes, particularly merchants and craftsmen. Finally, 
preaching and conversion were confined to predominantly 
Shi'ite areas in Iraq and Iran. 

As has been stressed by modern scholars, the Babi move- 
ment served as a vehicle of social protest, uniting a number of 

otherwise inimical heterodox and social classes in opposition 
to the established order. Despite this shared desire for social 
change (which still remains to be proven), the Bab's charis- 
matic personality and forceful writing also played a central 
role in attracting converts and admirers, even in the West. 
Rather than being an unwitting product of messianic expecta- 
tion, content to remain within the bounds of traditional 
Shi'ite notions of the function of the Hidden Imam as the 
Mahdi and reformer of Islam, the Bab enunciated a supra- 
Islamic message that included new laws and social teachings 
designed, by his own admission, to prepare the people for a 
second theophany: the coming of "Him Whom God will 
make manifest" (man yuzhiruhu'llati). 

Although there were a number of claimants to this 
theophany in the 1850s, most Babis followed the Bab's 
nominee, Baha'allah's half-brother Mirza Yahya (also known 
as Subh Azal). After Baha'allah claimed this station in 1863, 
however, the majority of Babis recognized him as the fulfill- 
ment of the Bab's prophecies concerning the second theophany 
and subsequently identified themselves as Baha'is. The Bab's 
followers, who continued to owe their allegiance to Subh 
Azal, became known as Azalis and played an important role in 
Iran's constitutional revolution in 1906. 

See also Bab, Sayyed c AIi Muhammad; Baha'allah; Baha 3 i 


Amanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the 
Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell 
University Press, 1989. 

MacEoin, Denis. Rituals in Babism and Baha'ism. London: 
British Academic Press, 1994. 

William, McCants 


Sayyed 'Ali Muhammad, later known as "the Bab," was born 
on 20 October 1819 in Shiraz, the provincial capital of Fars. A 
descendent of the prophet Muhammad's family, the Bab 
traced his lineage from the tribe of Quraysh to his father, 
Sayyed Muhammad Reza, a merchant in the bazaar of Shiraz. 
In his early childhood, the Bab's father died and he came 
under the care of his maternal uncles. During his adolescence 
and young adulthood, the Bab's uncle Hajji Mirza Sayyed c Ali 
was his most stalwart supporter, overseeing his limited educa- 
tion, guiding his early business ventures as a merchant, and 
later becoming one of the earliest adherents of his nephew's 
new creed. 


islam and the Muslim World 


The Bab's demure demeanor as a child matured into 
quiet, religious contemplation, as noted by his contemporar- 
ies. His personal piety led him to undertake a pilgrimage to 
the Shi'ite holy shrines in Iraq between 1 840 and 1 841 . While 
there, the Bab, an adherent of the Shaykhi school of Twelver 
Shi'ite Islam, attended a few classes given by the Shaykhi 
leader Sayyed Kazem Rashti. On 22 May 1844, three years 
after his return to Shiraz, the Bab advanced his claim to divine 
authority from God to one of Kazem's students, Mulla 
Hosayn, and soon after gained a large following among 
seminarians who in turn made many converts among mer- 
chants and even upper-class landowners, including Mirza 
Husayn 'Ali Nuri, who later founded the Baha'i religion. 

Although the Bab couched his claims in abstruse language 
early in his career, the implications were not lost upon the 
Shi'ite ulema. In particular, they viewed his assertion to 
reveal verses in the same manner as Muhammad as a violation 
of a cardinal tenet of Shi'ite and Sunni Islam — that Muham- 
mad was the last of God's messengers. He was tried by 
religious judges and condemned to death for heresy. As a 
result of clerical agitation, he was soon arrested and suffered 
imprisonment until his execution on 9 July 1850, at the age 
of thirty. 

During his prophetic career, the Bab composed numerous 
religious texts of varying genres. Some of the more notable 
tides include the Qayyum al-asma' (his earliest, post-declaration 
doctrinal work), the Persian and Arabic Bayans (two separate 
books detailing the laws of his new religion), and Dala'il sab'a 
(an apologetic work). 

See also Babiyya; Baha'allah; Baha'i Faith. 

Amanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the 
Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell 
University Press, 1989. 

MacEoin, Denis. The Sources for Early Babi Doctrine and 
History. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992. 

William McCants 


"Have you seen in all the length and breadth of the earth 
A city such as Baghdad? Indeed it is paradise on earth." 
(al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, in Lassner, Topography, p. 47) 

Thus begins a poem attributed variously to 'Umara b. 'Aqil 
al-Khatafi and Mansur al-Namari in praise of Baghdad, the 
illustrious capital of the Abbasid caliphate in Iraq for close to 

A bust of Muslim caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur, in Baghdad, which 
he founded. AP/Wide World Photos 

five centuries. The city was founded by the second Abbasid 
caliph, Abu Ja'far al-Mansur, on the banks of the Tigris River 
where it most closely approaches the Euphrates. While offi- 
cially called Dar al-Salam, or the Abode of Peace, which 
recalls Qur'anic descriptions of Paradise (6:127; 10:25), the 
name Baghdad itself is reminiscent of a pre-Islamic settle- 
ment in the vicinity. However, this metropolis is not to be 
confused erroneously with the ancient towns of Babylon, 
Seleucia, and Ctesiphon. 

Following the turbulence and social upheavals of the 
Abbasid assumption of power from the Umayyads, al-Mansur 
sought to move his capital to a more secure location in the 
East. The proclamation of Abu 1- 'Abbas as the first Abbasid 
caliph in 749 c.e. had irrevocably shifted the locus of imperial 
power away from Damascus, the Umayyad capital, to a series 
of successive sites in Iraq. Al-Mansur himself was initially 
based in al-Hashimiyyah, adjacent to Qasr Ibn Hubayra and 
close to Kufa. The Rawandiyya uprising of 758 c.e., however, 
soon exposed the location's vulnerability, and al-Mansur 
began a thorough investigation of sites from which he could 
consolidate his rule. 

isfam and the Muslim World 



The inner city of Baghdad c. 800 

source: Lunde, Paul. Islam: Faith, Culture, History. New York: 
DK Publishing, Inc., 2002. 

In accordance with the information gathered from scouts, 
local inhabitants, and personal observation, the minor village 
of Baghdad was selected as an ideal location for the future 
Abbasid capital. The area had much to recommend itself in 
terms of its central location, fertile lands, temperate climate, 
ease of receiving provisions via the Tigris and Euphrates 
Rivers, the convening of caravan routes nearby, and the 
natural defenses provided by the surrounding canals. Con- 
struction of the imperial capital began in the year 762 c.e., 
though work was halted temporarily that same year while al- 
Mansur suppressed further uprisings emanating from Medina 
and Basra. Over one hundred thousand architects, artisans, 
and laborers from across the empire were employed in the 
creation of this city, at tremendous financial expense, over a 
period of four years. 

An alternative name for Baghdad, al-Madina al- 
Mudawwara, or the Round City, reflects the circular layout of 
al-Mansur's initial foundation. Baghdad was designed as a 
series of concentric rings, with the caliphal palace, known as 
Bab al-Dhahab, or the Golden Gate, and the attached grand 
congregational mosque located in the center, along with 
separate structures for the commander of the guard and the 
chief of police. The caliph was thereby equidistant from all 
points within the city, as well as surrounded by its consider- 
able fortifications. Only the residences of his younger child- 
ren, those of his servants and slaves, and various government 
offices shared access onto this inner circle. Four walkways 
radiated outward from the central courtyard in the directions 
of northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest, passing 
through the inner circle of surrounding structures; then an 
enclosure wall followed by an interval of space; then a resi- 
dential area followed by another interval; then a large wall of 
outer defense, a third interval, a second smaller wall; and 
finally a deep, wide moat surrounding the entire complex. 

The Round City initially retained an austere administra- 
tive and military character. On the city's outskirts, large land 
grants at varying distances from the capital were given to 
members of the Abbasid family, the army, and chiefs of the 
government agencies. In addition to the initial settlers, com- 
prised of those loyal to the caliph and his new regime, large 
numbers of laborers, artisans, and merchants migrated to 
Baghdad in pursuit of the largesse showered upon those 
necessary to sustain the new imperial capital. What quickly 
grew to be a thriving market within the walls of the Round 
City was ultimately perceived to be a security threat and, in 
773 c.e., was transferred southwest of Baghdad, to al-Karkh. 
There, the commercial activities of the Abbasid capital flour- 
ished, and Baghdad rapidly developed into an economically 
vibrant metropolis. 

The main markets of Baghdad were subdivided according 
to their various specialties which included food, fruit, flowers, 

The inner city of Baghdad circa 800. 

textiles, clothes, booksellers, goldsmiths, cobblers, reedweavers, 
soapmakers, and moneychangers that served the populace 
and government officials. Baghdad exported textiles and 
items made of cotton and silk, glazed-ware, oils, swords, 
leather, and paper, to mention only a few, through both local 
and international trade. The muhtasib, a government-appointed 
regulator, ensured the fair practices of the marketplace as well 
as supervised the public works of proliferating mosques and 
bathhouses. The opulence and luxury of court life in Baghdad 
were legendary, and reflected the vast political and economic 
power of the Abbasid Empire. 

The magnanimity of the Abbasid caliphs and the well- 
placed inhabitants of Baghdad also extended into encourag- 
ing intellectual pursuits, thereby establishing the Abbasid 
capital as one of the world's most sophisticated and presti- 
gious centers of learning. Renowned Islamic scholars of 
diverse geographical and ethnic origins held sessions in the 
mosques and colleges of cosmopolitan Baghdad, attracting 
innumerable seekers of legal, philological, and spiritual knowl- 
edge. Bookshops and the private homes of individual scholars 
and high government officials, such as the wazir, also served 
as venues for intellectual discussion and debate. Inns located 
near the mosques provided lodging to those who had devoted 
themselves to scholarly pursuits, and accommodations were 
later made available within the institutions of the madrasa 
(legal college) and ribat (Sufi establishment), both of which 
also offered stipends to affiliated students. 


islam and the Muslim World 


Scientific research in the fields of astronomy, mathemat- 
ics, medicine, optics, engineering, botany, and pharmacology 
also prospered within the Abbasid capital. Alongside experi- 
mentation and exploration, translation of Hellenic, Indie, 
and Persian texts received patronage from dignitaries, physi- 
cians, and scientists in response to the professional and 
intellectual demands of an expanding Islamic society. Public 
libraries, both attached to mosques and as separate institu- 
tions, contributed further to the dissemination of knowledge 
among the populace, while the establishment of hospitals as 
charitable endowments throughout the city ensured the pro- 
vision of free medical care to anyone who so required it. 
Mobile clinics were even dispatched to remote villages on a 
regular basis, with the aims of offering comprehensive health 

The political fragmentation of the sprawling Abbasid 
Empire ultimately contributed to a decline in the revenues 
and hence in the general fortunes of the capital in Baghdad. 
Increasing civil disturbances in the face of weakened central 
authority, as well as rife Sunni-Shi c ite conflicts, resulted in 
the deterioration and destruction of vast segments of the 
waning metropolis. Nevertheless, Baghdad retained its pres- 
tige as the center of the Islamic caliphate and a symbol of 
Muslim cultural, material, and scholarly achievement. It was 
therefore with great consternation that news was received of 
the Mongols's savage invasion and ravaging of the city in 
1258 c.e. Hundreds of thousands of Baghdad's inhabitants, 
including the caliph and his family, leading personalities, and 
scholars were mercilessly put to death, and the great scientific 
and literary treasures of Baghdad were burned or drowned in 
the waters of the Tigris. 

Thereafter, Baghdad was transformed into a provincial 
center within the Mongol Empire, under the control of the 
Ilkhanids until 1339 c.e. and then the Jalayrids until 1410 c.e. 
The Karakoyunlu Turkomans and the Akkoyunlu Turkomans 
ruled Baghdad successively, until the city was conquered by 
Shah Ismail in 1508 c.e. and incorporated into the Safavid 
Empire. A subsequent Perso-Ottoman struggle for Baghdad 
and its symbolic sites resulted in Sultan Sulayman the Mag- 
nificent's conquest of the city in 1534 c.e., only to be lost 
again to the Safavids, and then regained by the Ottoman 
Sultan Murad IV in 1638 c.e. Baghdad remained the capital of 
the region's Ottoman province for nearly three centuries, and 
was occupied by the British in March 1917, during the course 
of World War I. In 1921, it became the seat of Faysal b. 
Husayn's kingdom under British Mandate and remained the 
capital of Iraq throughout its successive developments into an 
independent constitutional monarchy (1930), federated 
Hashimite monarchy (1958), and then republic (1958). 

See also Caliphate; Empires: Abbasid; Revolution: Classi- 
cal Islam; Revolution: Islamic Revolution in Iran; 
Revolution: Modern. 


Jawad, Mustafa, and Susa, Ahmad. Baghdad. Baghdad: al- 
Majma c al-'Ilmi al- c Iraqi, 1958. 

Lassner, Jacob. The Topography of Baghdad in the Early Middle 
Ages: Text and Studies. Detroit: Wayne State University 
Press, 1970. 

Lunde, Paul. Islam: Faith, Culture, History. New York: DK 
Publishing, 2002. 

Makdisi, George. Religion, Law and Learning in Classical Islam. 
Brookfield, Vt. : Gower, 1991. 

Makdisi, George. "The Reception of the Model of Islamic 
Scholastic Culture in the Christian West." In Science in 
Islamic Civilisation: Proceedings of the International Symposia. 
Edited by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. Istanbul: Research Centre 
for Islamic History and Culture, 2000. 

Sayyad, Nezar, al-. Cities and Caliphs: On the Genesis of Arab 
Muslim Urbanism. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. 

Tabari, Muhammad al-. Abbasid Authority Affirmed. Trans- 
lated by Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Albany: State Univer- 
sity of New York Press, 1995. 

Wheatley, Paul. The Places Where Men Pray Together: Cities in 
Islamic Lands, Seventh through Tenth Centuries. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 2001. 

Mona Hassan 

BAHA'ALLAH (1817-1892) 

"Baha'allah," a title meaning "splendor of God," was the 
name given to Mirza Husayn c Ali Nuri, prophet and founder 
of the Baha'i faith. 

Born in Tehran into an elite bureaucratic family, he was 
converted in 1844 to the Babi religion, the messianic move- 
ment begun that year by the Iranian prophet Sayyed c Ali 
Muhammad, commonly known as the Bab ("Gate"). He 
played a significant role in the early Babi community. Impris- 
oned as a Babi in 1 852 , he was exiled to Iraq, where he became 
the de facto leader of the Babis. He was summoned to 
Istanbul by the Ottoman government in April 1863 and then 
arrested and exiled again to Edirne in European Turkey. 
There he made an open claim to prophethood that was 
eventually accepted by most Babis, though opposed by his 
younger brother, Subh-e Azal. Alarmed by disputes among 
the Babi exiles, the Turkish government imprisoned Baha'al- 
lah in Acre, Palestine, in 1 868, where he lived under gradually 
improving conditions until his death. His eldest son, Abd al- 
Baha', was recognized by most Baha'is as his successor. His 
tomb near Acre is now a Baha'i shrine. 

Baha'allah wrote extensively, mostly letters to the believ- 
ers. His works included commentary on scripture, Baha'i law, 
comments on current affairs, prayers, and theological discus- 
sions of all sorts. Though his writings were grounded in the 

islam and the Muslim World 


Baha'i Faith 

esoteric Shi'ite thought of the Bab, he was politically sophis- 
ticated, and his own religious thought is often best seen in the 
context of the Westernizing reformers of the nineteenth 
century Middle East. The social liberalism of the modern 
Baha'i faith has its roots in Baha'allah's writings. 

Baha'allah is considered a "manifestation of God" by 
Baha'is and is thus a prophet of the rank of Moses, Jesus, and 

See also c Abd al-Baha 5 ; Bab, Sayyed c Ali Muhammad; 
Baha'i Faith. 


Baha'u'llah. Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the Kitab-i- 
Aqdas. Translated by Habib Taherzadeh. Wilmette, 111.: 
Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1988. 

Balyuzi, Hasan. Baha'u'llah: the King of Glory. Oxford, U.K.: 
George Ronald, 1980. 

Cole, Juan R. I. Modernity and the Millenium: The Genesis of the 
Baha'i Faith in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East. New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 

John Walbridge 


The Baha'i faith was founded by Baha'allah as an outgrowth 
of the Babi religion, the messianic movement begun in 1844 
by the Iranian prophet Sayyed c Ali Muhammad, commonly 
known as the Bab ("Gate"). 


After the execution of the Bab in 1850 and the pogrom 
following a Babi attempt to assassinate the shah, the Babi 
movement suffered a crisis of leadership. Its titular leader was 
Mirza Yahya, known as Subh-e Azal, but from the mid- 1860s 
the effective leader was Azal's elder brother, Baha'allah. Both 
were exiles in Baghdad. Baha'allah later wrote that he had had 
mystical experiences while imprisoned in Tehran in 1852, 
and by the early 1860s he had begun hinting that he was "he 
whom God shall make manifest," the Babi messiah. On 21 
April 1 863 he announced this claim to several close associates, 
an event that Baha'is now consider the beginning of their 
religion. Baha'allah nonetheless continued to recognize the 
nominal leadership of Azal. The final break came in 1867 
when he wrote to Azal formally claiming prophethood. The 
Babis then split into three main groups. By the end of the 
1870s those who had accepted the claim of Baha'allah were 
the large majority and came to be known as Baha'is. A smaller 
number, the Azalis, stayed loyal to Subh-e Azal and vocifer- 
ously opposed Baha'allah. A few accepted neither claim. 

Through his extensive correspondence and meetings with 
pilgrims during his exile in Acre, Baha'allah organized the 

new community. He rejected the militancy and esoteric 
Shi'ite mysticism characteristic of the Babis, instead stressing 
political neutrality and progressive themes such as interna- 
tional peace, education, and the emancipation of women and 
slaves. By the time of the death of Baha'allah in 1892, the 
Iranian community had recovered from the disasters of the 
Babi period, and small but growing communities, mainly 
consisting of Iranian emigres, had been established in many 
countries of the Middle East, the Russian Empire, and India. 

After Baha'allah's death most Baha'is accepted the leader- 
ship of his eldest son, Abd al-Baha'. In the 1890s small but 
influential communities of Baha'i converts from Christianity 
were established in Europe and North America. Despite the 
turmoil caused by World War I and by revolutions in Iran, 
Turkey, and Russia, 'Abd al-Baha' was able to establish an 
institutional structure for most of the major Baha'i communi- 
ties, increasingly in the form of elected governing commit- 
tees known as spiritual assemblies. The most important event 
of his ministry, however, was a series of journeys to Europe 
and America from 1911 to 1913. These trips were the occa- 
sion for an increasing stress on the liberal social teachings of 
the Baha'i faith. 

Abd al-Baha' was succeeded in 1921 by his grandson, 
Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, whose English education and West- 
ern orientation marked a final break with the religion's 
Islamic roots. Shoghi Effendi was not a charismatic figure like 
his grandfather and preferred to focus on institution-building 
and consolidation. The most spectacular achievement of his 
ministry was a series of "teaching plans," in which Baha'i 
missionaries settled in scores of new countries and territories, 
notably in Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific. By the 
1950s some of these communities were growing rapidly. 
Shoghi Effendi wrote extensively and systematically in Per- 
sian and English, standardizing Baha'i theological self- 
understanding and practice. His translations of several vol- 
umes of Baha'allah's writings became the standard Baha'i 
scriptures for Western Baha'is. He also wrote a history of the 
Babi and Baha'i Faiths and translated a history of the Babi 
religion. These works also became fundamental for the self- 
understanding of Western Baha'is. Finally, through his con- 
struction of Baha'i shrines and temples in Haifa, Acre, and 
several Western cities, he made the Baha'i faith more visible 
and created a Baha'i architectural idiom. 

Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, leaving neither an heir nor a 
will. In 1963, after a six-year interregnum, the various Baha'i 
national spiritual assemblies elected an international govern- 
ing body, the Universal House of Justice, which has since 
been elected every five years. The Universal House of Justice 
continued Shoghi Effendi's programs of teaching plans and 
construction. There are now several million Baha'is in the 
world, most in the developing world, leaving only a small 
minority in Iran or Islamic countries. 

1 00 

islam and the Muslim World 

Balkans, Islam in the 

This garden leads to the $250 million Baha'i Shrine of the Bab in 
Haifa, Israel that was completed in 2001 after ten years of 
construction. Built by the great grandson of Baha'allah, founder of 
the Baha'i faith, it is one of many Baha'i shrines and temples 
throughout the Muslim world and the West. Baha'i is a religion 
that split from Islam. It emphasizes the unity among all religions, 
races, and nations. AP/Wide World Photos 

Baha'i Theology, Beliefs, and Practices 

The theological roots of the Baha'i faith are in the Babi 
religion, which was essentially an esoteric Shi'ite movement. 
The fundamental Baha'i theological conception is that of the 
logos figure of the manifestation of God: the prophet as the 
perfect mirror of God's attributes. Human beings and all 
other creatures are lesser mirrors of God's various attributes. 
The prophet is thus a model and a revealer of God's knowl- 
edge and will. God's full plan is revealed gradually by a series 
of prophets, who guide humanity's emergence into a world- 
wide spiritual civilization. Baha'allah is of particular signifi- 
cance, since his ministry marks the beginning of human 
maturity and world unity. Thus, for Baha'is all religions are 
fundamentally true, having been based on prophecy, though 
the Baha'i faith is destined to supercede them. The differ- 
ences among religions are due either to the differing circum- 
stances of the time and place of their revelation or to gradual 
corruption of the original message. 

The characteristic feature of Baha'allah's revelation is its 
stress on unity, a theme expressed in Baha'i social teachings. 

Thus, racism, nationalism, religious fanaticism, prejudice of 
any sort, and the degradation of women are condemned in 
Baha'i teachings. Likewise, there is no Baha'i clergy, and all 
believers are considered fundamentally equal. The theme of 
unity permeates Baha'i thought and practice, giving the 
community a decidedly egalitarian character. 

The Baha'i faith is nominally a religion of law, but its 
religious law, though generally analogous to Islamic law and 
practice, is usually simpler and less demanding. There is a 
daily prayer, an annual nineteen-day fast, nine major holy 
days, and a "feast" every nineteen days on the first day of each 
month of the Baha'i calendar. Regulations governing mar- 
riage, divorce, and funerals are simple. Baha'is are monoga- 
mous, and marriage is conditioned on the consent both of the 
couple and of living parents. In practice, Baha'i communal 
life often is less concerned with worship than with commu- 
nity administration and particularly the goal of expanding the 

Baha'i scripture consists of the authenticated writings of 
Baha'allah and c Abd al-Baha'. Shoghi Effendi's works are 
authoritative as interpretation, and writings of the Universal 
House of Justice are authoritative in legislative and adminis- 
trative matters. Writings of individuals are considered per- 
sonal opinion and not binding on others. Because the 
authoritative writings are so voluminous, Baha'i writers have 
tended to focus on collection and collation. Most Baha'i 
theological writing has been polemical rather than specula- 
tive in character. There is no developed Baha'i legal tradition. 
Since the 1970s there has been increasingly vigorous aca- 
demic and theological study of the Baha'i faith. 

See also c Abd al-Baha'; Babiyya; Baha'allah. 

Smith, Peter. The Babi and Baha'i Religions: From Messianic 
Shi'ism to a World Religion. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge 
University Press, 1987. 

Stockman, Robert. The Baha'i Faith in America. Wilmette, 
111.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1985-1995. 

Walbridge, John. Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time. 
Baha'i Studies 1. Oxford: George Ronald, 1996. 

John Walbridge 


Since the late fourteenth century there have been Muslim 
communities in southeast Europe. For most of their history 
they were an important and integral part of the Ottoman 
Empire. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when 
ethnic-based nation-states came to power in the Balkans, 
most of these Muslim communities lost prominence and 
some disappeared. Recent attempts by certain nationalist 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Balkans, Islam in the 

forces to erase the history of Muslims in the Balkans have led 
to new interest in these Muslim peoples of Europe. 

Expansion of Islam into Southeast Europe 

Ottoman armies and Sufi missionaries brought Islam into 
southeast Europe in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centu- 
ries. Beginning with the conquest of eastern Thrace in the 
mid- 13 00s, the Ottomans soon took Macedonia. They fought 
Serbian prince Lazar and his Balkan army at Kosovo in 1 3 89, 
and defeated Bulgaria soon after in 1393. Along with military 
conquest, the Ottomans brought Muslim settlers from Anatolia 
to occupy main march routes and river valleys. In 1456 
Athens fell to the Ottomans, followed by Bosnian and Alba- 
nian lands, and finally Belgrade in 1521. 

There was significant conversion of local people to Islam, 
principally among Bosnians and Albanians, but also across the 
Balkans. This conversion was gradual, continuing through- 
out the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, and 
even later among some Albanians. Except for the devsinne, 
the forced recruitment of Christian boys for special military 
and governmental service, this conversion to Islam was vol- 
untary. The Balkans had been a region of contention between 
western, or Latin, and eastern, or Byzantine, forms of Chris- 
tianity. In Bosnia and Albania neither form of Christianity 
had been well preached or well established. In contrast the 
Sufi missionaries brought a tolerant form of religion and the 
Ottoman state a system of order based broadly on religious 
affiliation. The advantages of being Muslim were economic 
and cultural and included exemption from the head tax, 
privileges in land owning, and opportunities in state adminis- 
tration and the military, as well as links with the vibrant 
culture and society of Istanbul. 

History and Main Developments 

During the Ottoman period, lasting from the fourteenth 
century to the early twentieth century, the history of Muslims 
in the Balkans largely parallels the history of the empire itself. 
When the Ottoman Empire was at its height in the sixteenth 
century, the Balkan cities of Edirne, Sarajevo, and Salonika 
(the latter with a significant Jewish population) were rich 
cosmopolitan centers of trade and learning, with impressive 
mosques, madrasas (schools), and bridges. Three of Sultan 
Suleyman the Magnificent's grand wazirs — Ibrahim the Greek, 
Rustem the Bulgarian, and Mehmet Sokullu, a Slav from 
Bosnia — were converted Muslims from the Balkans. At the 
end of the seventeenth century, Albanian Muslims from the 
Koprulu family (Mehmet, Ahmed, Mustafa, and Husein) 
served as grand wazirs and provided well-needed stability in a 
century of decline. For, as western European countries gained 
power in trade routes and military prowess, formerly the 
purview of the Ottomans, the Ottoman Empire weakened 
economically and the Austro-Hungarian Empire took terri- 
tories from the Ottomans, including Hungary, part of present- 
day Croatia (1699), and later Bosnia (1878). The position of 
Muslim communities gradually declined as well until the 

Expansion of the Ottoman Empire into southeast Europe. XNR 
Productions, Inc/Gale 

breakup of Ottoman power in the Balkans left many of them 

The following period in the history of Muslims in the 
Balkans, the time of growth of nation-states, began variably in 
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with southern Greece 
becoming independent in 1821, followed by Serbia (whose 
northern part had been autonomous since 1815), Romania, 
and Bulgaria, all in 1878, and later by Albania in 1912. During 
these times there were forced migrations, massacres, and 
expulsions of Muslims, especially from the eastern Balkans, 
for the new nation-states were largely conceived as ethnic 
units tied to language and a form of Christianity. In contrast, 
many Balkan Muslims, who did not fit in the new nation-state 
design, were seen as allied with the Ottomans who had been 
increasingly ineffective and oppressive in the last century of 
their rule. Thousands of Muslims were forced to flee to 
Turkey. This would continue throughout the twentieth cen- 
tury with Balkan Muslims from Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, 
and Bulgaria emigrating to the safety of Muslim Turkey. The 
exceptions to this were Muslims from the western Balkan 
lands of Albania and Bosnia. Most stayed in the Balkans 
throughout these times, although some Bosnian Muslims did 
emigrate in and after 1878. The large part of Bosnian Mus- 
lims, themselves Slavs, continued as landowners and free 

1 02 

islam and the Muslim World 

Balkans, Islam in the 

peasants under Austria-Hungary's rule, and remained later as 
part of Yugoslavia. As for the Albanian Muslims, some led the 
Albanian nationalist movement for independence; overall, 
Muslims made up 70 percent of the new independent state of 
Albania. There were also smaller communities of Slavic 
Muslims, Albanian Muslims, and Roma Muslims who stayed 
where they were and thus became minorities in different 
Balkan lands. 

Nationalism also came to the Turks. It is interesting that 
an Albanian Muslim from Struga in present-day Macedonia, 
Ibrahim Temo, was one of the four founding members of 
what became known as the Young Turks. The founder of 
modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, was 
a Balkan Muslim from Salonika. 

Later in the twentieth century, the Muslims in Bosnia 
came to be seen as an ethnic group as well. Before World War 
II they were considered a religious community. But after the 
war, with the secularization of the Communist Party and 
growing importance of "nationalities," they officially became 
an ethnic group under the label "Muslim" in 1968. Just as 
"Jew" in the United States can have both ethnic and religious 
meaning, so "Muslim" had both meanings in Yugoslavia. 
With the warfare in the 1990s, this ambiguity became a 
problem so that today the ethnic term for Bosnian Muslim is 

Characteristics and Cultural Achievements 

The Muslims of the Balkans are largely Sunni of the Hannafi 
school. There are also Sufi communities with more inclusive 
theologies, including the Sunni Naqshibandi, as well as the 
Halveti, Mevlevi, Qadiri, Rifa'i, Sa'di, Melami, and Bektashi 
orders. Of these, the Bektashi rose to special prominence in 
Albania in the twentieth century, only to become a target of 
Communist Enver Hoxha's regime (1944-1991). Also in 
Bulgaria there are communities of Ali'ids. As in other parts of 
the Ottoman world, religious poetry known as merthiyes and 
nefes stems from these orders, and m.evluds and ghazeh from 
the larger Muslim communities. 

Better known to the broader world than religious poetry is 
the remarkable architecture of Muslims in the Balkans. This 
includes the older sections of cities with their bazaars, mosques, 
fountains, hamams (baths), tiirbes (mausolea), madrasas (schools), 
and old Ottoman homes. One of the masterpieces of Otto- 
man architecture is the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne (1575) by 
Sinan. Also well known were other remarkable mosques like 
the Ferhat Pasha Mosque of Banja Luka (1579), the Aladza 
Mosque in Foca (15 50), and the Gazi Husrevbegova Mosque 
of Sarajevo (1530), all in Bosnia, as well as the famous 
Ottoman bridge at Mostar in Herzegovina (1566). 

Contemporary Situation and Concerns 

The war in Bosnia (1992-1995) between Serbian and Croatian 
nationalists and Muslim Bosnians led to the destruction of the 
famous mosques of Banja Luka and Foca and the severe 

Composition of Bosnia-Herzegovina following the signing of the 
1995 Dayton Peace Accords. XNR Productions, Inc/Cale 

damaging of the Gazi Husrevbegova Mosque in Sarajevo, as 
well as the destruction of many more Islamic sites throughout 
Bosnia. The famous bridge at Mostar, and the Oriental 
Institute in Sarajevo, where important historical documents 
of the Ottoman period were housed, were both deliberately 
targeted and destroyed. The war in Kosovo (1999) led to the 
destruction of many Islamic monuments and documents 
there as well. One of the purposes of these civil wars was to 
erase the Islamic heritage of these regions of the Balkans. 
This is not new. There were once many mosques in Belgrade 
that were destroyed in the late nineteenth century. Such 
destruction was in marked contrast to the usual Ottoman 
policy that had promoted tolerance for Christian and Jewish 

Nevertheless there remain Muslim communities in the 
Balkans. The greatest number of Muslims are still in Bosnia, 
although many were killed in the war and many more became 
refugees. The next largest population of Muslims in the 
Balkans is in Albania, but many were secularized during the 
long communist rule. Albanians in Kosovo are also mainly 
Muslim. But of all the Albanian Muslims in the Balkans, those 
in western Macedonia are among the most observant. They 
form at least one-third of the population, but have been kept 
out of most state jobs and universities. Bulgaria has three 
different Muslim populations: Turks, who are the largest 
group; Pomaks, who are Slavs living in the southern moun- 
tains; and Roma, who are largely Muslim. During communist 
rule in Bulgaria, there were at times direct policies to 

islam and the Muslim World 

1 03 

Bamba, Ahmad 

"bulgarize" the Muslim peoples by forcing them to change 
their Muslim names to Slavic Bulgarian ones, and there were 
prohibitions against circumcision. In the 1980s over 300,000 
Turks from Bulgaria went to Turkey rather than submit to 
these policies. Since then, some have returned and the poli- 
cies in post-communist Bulgaria are not as restrictive. Romania 
has two small Muslim communities. In Greece, most Mus- 
lims left or were part of the population transfers in the early 
1920s. There remain, however, the Turkish Muslims of 
western Thrace in northeast Greece. 

An irony of the fighting in Bosnia at the end of the 
twentieth century is that the attempt of Serbian and Croatian 
nationalists to eradicate the Islamic history and the Muslim 
people of the region has resulted in a reinvigoration of Islamic 
practices there. The Bosnians, who were once among the 
most secularized of Muslims, now include those who are 
more observant. But the long tradition of tolerance and 
mutual respect of Balkan Islam, for which places like Sarajevo 
were justly famous, has been severely damaged. 

See also Empires: Ottoman; Europe, Islam in. 

Bringa, Tone. Being Muslim the Bosnian Way: Identity and 
Community in a Central Bosnian Village. Princeton, N.J.: 
Princeton University Press, 1995. 

Donia, Robert J., and Fine, John V. A. Bosnia and Hercegovina: 
A Tradition Betrayed. New York: Columbia University 
Press, 1994. 

Eminov, Ali. Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria. 
London: Hurst & Company, 1997. 

Hasluck, Frederick William. Christianity and Islam under the 
Sultans. Oxford, U.K.: The Clarendon Press, 1929. 

Pasic, Amir. Islamic Architecture in Bosnia and Hercegovina. 
Translated by Mdhat Ridjanovic. Istanbul: Research Cen- 
tre for Islamic History, Art, and Culture, 1994. 

Popovic, Alexandre. L 'Islam Balkanique: les musulmans du sud- 
est europeen dans la periode post-ottomane. Berlin: Otto 
Harrassowitz, 1986. 

Poulton, Hugh, and Taji-Farouki, Suha. Muslim Identity and 
the Balkan State. London: Hurst & Company, 1997. 

Trix, Frances. "The Resurfacing of Islam in Albania." The 
East European Quarterly 28, no. 4 (1995): 533-549. 

Frances Trix 

BAMBA, AHMAD (1853-1927) 

Ahmad Bamba was the founder of the Muridiyya (Mouride) 
Brotherhood. Born in the Baol region in Senegal, Ahmad was 
initiated into the Qadiriyya Brotherhood (tariqd) by Shaykh 
Sidia in Mauritania. He founded his own brotherhood in 
1886 and established the town of Touba (Senegal) as the 

capital of his order in 1 887. Shaykh Ahmad Bamba was highly 
respected for his learning and piety but he also attracted 
followers who were struggling against the French occupation. 

The new brotherhood spread rapidly and was associated 
with rumors of a possible uprising. In 1895, Ahmad Bamba 
was exiled to Gabon and was not permitted to return to 
Senegal until 1902. His return attracted a wave of new 
followers and more rumors of rebellion. The French exiled 
him again in 1903, this time to Mauritania. Ahmad returned 
to Senegal in 1907. Again large numbers of followers flocked 
to him and the French were concerned. After 1910, however, 
the French began to trust the Muslim leader somewhat more, 
even turning to him for help on occasion. Most notably, he 
recruited troops and raised money for French efforts in 
World War I. For this he was made a Chevalier de la Legion 
d'Honneur in 1919. Ahmad Bamba, however, collaborated 
reluctantly. He was a religious man and a mystic, given to 
meditation and scholarship. His brotherhood was organized 
on a principle of total obedience, hard work, and self-denial 
and became the most powerful religious group in Senegal. 

See also Africa, Islam in; Colonialism; Tariqa; Touba. 

Behrman, Lucy C. Muslim Brotherhoods and Politics in Senegal. 
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970. 

Coulon, Christian. Le Marabout et le Prince: Islam et Pouvoir au 
Senegal. Paris: Pedone, 1981. 

Creevey, Lucy. "Ahmad Bamba 1850-1927." In Studies in 
West African Islamic History, Vol. 1: The Cultivators of Islam. 
Edited by John Ralph Willis. London: Frank Cass, 1979. 

O'Brien, Donal Cruise. The Mourides of Senegal: The Political 
and Economic Organization of an Islamic Brotherhood. Oxford, 
U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1971. 

Lucy Creevey 

BANNA, HASAN AL- (1906-1949) 

Hasan al-Banna was an Islamic reformer and the founder of 
Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood). Banna was born 
in Mahmudiyya, a town near Alexandria, Egypt. In addition 
to receiving the traditional education in Qur'an, hadith, 
elementary principles of law, and Arabic language, Banna 
became a member of the Hasafiyya Sufi order during his teen 
years. Although members of the Brotherhood would later 
attack Sufism, Banna always acknowledged the strong influ- 
ence of Sufism in his religious outlook and social activism. 

In 1923, Banna enrolled in Dar al-'Ulum in Cairo, the 
national teachers' training college, whose eclectic curriculum 
of traditional Islamic and modern Western subjects had been 
shaped by Muhammad 'Abduh and Rashid Rida. In 1927, he 
was sent to his first teaching assignment in a primary school 

1 04 

islam and the Muslim World 

Baqillani, al- 

in Isma'iliyya. Located in the Suez Canal zone, Isma'iliyya 
was home to large numbers of European civilians as well as 
British military personnel. Banna was exposed daily to for- 
eign imperialism in a direct manner that he had not experi- 
enced in Cairo. He began to question the reasons for Egypt's 
political subservience and the means for its revival. Only 
through a revival of Islamic consciousness among the masses, 
Banna concluded, could imperialism be combated. 

In March 1928, Banna and six other men founded an 
organization attached to the Hasafiyya order to "command 
the right and forbid the wrong." By the following year, the 
organization was already referred to as Ikhwan al-Muslimin. 
The organization began as an educational society, meant to 
instill or revive Islamic convictions among ordinary Egyp- 
tians. Its primary goal was to create an Islamic society based 
on the model of the earliest Muslim generations. Banna 
traveled throughout the canal zone, lecturing, collecting 
donations, organizing chapters, and building offices and 
mosques. The Brotherhood's organization reflected Banna's 
Sufi background. Chapters consisted of groups of young men 
organized hierarchically according to the level of commit- 
ment and knowledge demonstrated. Tying the various chap- 
ters together was Banna, the murshid (guide) of the movement, 
and a majlis al-shura (advisory council) composed officially of 
twelve members, though sometimes more. 

By 1932 Banna had moved the headquarters of the Broth- 
erhood to Cairo, reflecting his intention to play a much more 
active role in Egypt's politics. The Brotherhood was also 
firmly entrenched in regional politics by the late 1940s 
through branches in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan. Banna's 
ideological vision may be gleaned from his numerous writ- 
ings, the two most important being his memoirs (Mudhakkirat) 
and a published collection of his letters (Majmu'at al-rasa'il). 
For him Islam was a holistic creed, providing Muslims guide- 
lines for private piety, public morality, and social justice. The 
logical extension of this view was the establishment of an 
Islamic state. The leadership of such a state could only come 
from committed and informed Muslims, and the Brother- 
hood was to prepare itself for this role. 

Banna could not quell dissension within the Brotherhood 
once it entered the turbulent Egyptian politics of the 1940s. 
His control over the "secret apparatus," the armed wing of 
the organization that planned and carried out attacks on 
government officials and institutions, was particularly tenu- 
ous. More militant members refused to follow his agreement 
with the Egyptian government to merge the Brotherhood 
militia into the Egyptian army during the first Arab-Israeli 
war (1948-1949). Following a military decree banning the 
organization, Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi 
was assassinated in December 1948 by a student associated 
with the Brotherhood. In retaliation, the secret police assassi- 
nated Banna on 12 February 1949. 

See also Ikhwan al-Muslimin. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Abu Rabi c , Ibrahim M. Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence 
in the Modern Arab World. Albany: State University of New 
York Press, 1996. 

Banna, Hasan al-. Five Tracts of Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949): 
A Selection from the Majmuat Rasail al-Imam al-Shahid 
Hasan al-Banna. Translated by Charles Wendell. Berke- 
ley: University of California Press, 1978. 

Commins, David. "Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949)." InPioneers 
of Islamic Revival. Edited by Ali Rahnema. London: Zed 
Books, 1994. 

Mitchell, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1969. 

Sohail H. Hashmi 

BAQILLANI, AL-(?-1013) 

Qadi Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-Tayyib b. Muhammad, also 
known as Ibn al-Baqillani, was an Ash'arite theologian and 
Malikite jurisprudent. Al-Baqillani was regarded as the sec- 
ond founder of Ash'arism for his contribution to the systema- 
tization of the school. 

Born in Basra he lived mostly in Baghdad, and studied 
theology under al-Ash'ari's students Ibn Mujahid al-Ta'i and 
Abu '1-Hasan al-Bahili, and fiqh (jurisprudence) under Abu 
'Abdallah al-Shirazi and Ibn Abu Zayd al-Qayrawani. He 
attended discussion meetings with representatives of other 
schools in Shiraz, was sent to Constantinople as a special 
envoy to Byzantine rulers, served as a judge (qadi) in Uqbera 
and Saghr towns, and taught in Baghdad until his death in 1 0 1 3 . 

Well known for his disputational skills and polemical 
writings, al-Baqillani's books are mainly on theology. A large 
work, Hidayat al-mustarshidin via al-maqna l fi usul al-din, is 
preserved at al-Azhar library (ms. no. 342) in Cairo. His 
works, which largely collected and classified Ash'arite views, 
played a major role in the establishment and spread of the 
school. He emphasized the existence of atoms in order to 
avoid the idea of pre-eternity of the universe and elaborated 
some concepts in Sunni kalam, such as empty space, the 
continuous creation of accidents due to their incapability of 
lasting more than one unit of time, and the rational possibility 
of miracles. However, he preserved the Salafi (Salafiyya) 
tendency of not interpreting Qur'anic expressions attributed 
to God suggesting anthropomorphism. Most of his books 
include lengthy polemics against other monotheistic relig- 
ions. His skepticism toward the compatibility of ancient 
metaphysics with Islamic doctrines led him to oppose the use 
of formal logic in religious disciplines. In some issues of 
Islamic legal methodology, such as ijtihad and ijrna', he 
influenced later jurists. 

See also Ash c arites, Ash c aira; Kalam. 

1 05 

Basri, Hasan al- 


Chaumont, E. "Baqillani, theologien ash'arite et juriste 
malikite, contre les legistes a propos de l'ijtihad et de 
l'accord unanime de la communaute." Studia Islamica 79 
(1994): 79-102. 

Grunebaum, Gustave E., von. A Tenth-Century Document of 
Arabic Literary Theory and Criticism: The Sections on Poetry 
of al-Baqillani's Tjaz al-Qur'an. Chicago: Chicago Univer- 
sity Press, 1950. 

Haddad, Wadi Z. "A Tenth-Century Speculative Theolo- 
gian's Refutation of the Basic Doctrines of Christianity: 
al-Baqillani." In Christian-Muslim Encounters. Edited by Y. 
Yazbeck Haddad and Wadi Zaydan Haddad. Gainsville: 
University Press of Florida, 1995. 

M, Sait Ozervarli 

BASRI, HASAN AL- (642-728) 

Hasan al-Basri was one of the most famous early Sunni 
theologians and ascetics. Born in Medina, he lived in Basra, 
where he was renowned for his piety, learning, and elo- 
quence. He produced sermons, short commentaries on the 
Qur'an, aphorisms, and statements on ethics. In theology, he 
occupied a middle position on the subjects of free will and 
predestination. He believed that humans choose their ac- 
tions, but that God determines the outlines of fate. He 
criticized Umayyad caliphs and officials, but did not oppose 
them politically. His spiritual practice stressed self-reflective 
contemplation. He is considered a father of Sufism and 
appears as the source of many Sufi lineages. 

See also Kalam; Tasawwuf. 

Rkia E. Cornell 


The Ba'th Party is the governing party in Iraq and Syria, and 
is theoretically committed to the cause of Arab nationalism 
and unity. The Ba c th (Arabic for resurrection or renewal) 
Party was founded by two French-educated Syrian school 
teachers, Michel 'Aflaq (Greek Orthodox Christian) and 
Salah al-Din al-Bitar (Sunni Muslim), in 1943. "Regional 
commands" of the Ba'th were founded in many Arab coun- 
tries, all in principle subject to the "national command" of the 
founders. The party's slogan, "unity, freedom and socialism," 
rallied students, intellectuals, and army officers to its cause in 
many Arab states, and it played an important role in the 
tumultuous politics of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan in the 1950s. 
However, the party never achieved a strong mass following 
and had little electoral success anywhere. The Ba'th came to 
power in Syria in 1963 and in Iraq in 1968 through military 

coups. In power, the party in both countries effectively 
centralized control of the economy in government hands and 
instituted distributionist policies that originally benefited 
both the urban and rural middle and lower classes, though 
over time at the cost of economic growth and efficiency. Both 
the Syrian and Iraqi Ba'th came to rely on religious minorities 
to staff sensitive military and security positions — Alawis in 
Syria and Sunnis in Iraq — as the popularity of the govern- 
ments waned. A bitter split developed within the party in 
1966, reflected in the extremely hostile relations between 
Ba c thist Syria and Ba'thist Iraq. Like many ruling parties, the 
Ba c th lost much of its ideological elan once in power, and 
became the vehicle for increasingly personalized rule in Syria 
and Iraq. 

See also Nationalism: Arab. 

Devlin, John F. The Ba'th Party: A History from Its Origins to 
1966. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1976. 

Kienle, Eberhard. Ba'th v. Ba'th: The Conflict Between Syria 
and Iraq, 1968-1989. London: I. B. Tauris & Co., 1990. 

F. Gregory Gause III 

BAZARGAN, MEHDI (1907-1995) 

The son of a merchant from Tabriz, Mehdi Bazargan was 
born in Tehran, Iran. Educated both in traditional Islamic 
madrasa and modern schools, he completed his studies utEcole 
Polytechnique and Ecole Normale in France. Muhammad 
Mosaddeq (b. 1882) admired Bazargan's engineering ap- 
proach to social organization, such as Tehran's fresh water 
project (c. 1952), and commissioned him to fill the gap 
resulting from the departure of British experts after the 
nationalization of Iran's oil industry. He became a founder of 
the Engineering Association of Iran in 1945 and of the 
National Liberation Movement in 1961. 

Bazargan was one of a group of Islamic thinkers who 
convened to discuss current issues in the early 1960s, and was 
especially interested in adapting Shi'ite Islam to the techno- 
logical world without importing its ideology. Most people in 
this group became prominent leaders of the Iranian Revolu- 
tion. Bazargan was imprisoned along with other nationalist 
leaders in 1963. After the revolution of 1979, he became the 
prime minister of the provisional government. Bazargan was 
later ousted due to the occupation of the American embassy 
and hostage taking by students and his meeting with Brzezinski 
in Algiers. 

See also Iran, Islamic Republic of; Liberation Move- 
ment of Iran; Reform: Iran; Revolution: Islamic Revo- 
lution in Iran. 

1 06 

islam and the Muslim World 



Chehabi, H. E. Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The 
Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini. 
Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990. 

Mazy or Lotfalian 


The Bedouin are nomadic peoples of Arabia known in Arabic 
as bedu, 'arab, and a'rab. They are especially known for 
keeping camels, whose domestication in the third millenium 
made trade and raiding — their main occupations — easier. In 
addition, they keep flocks of sheep and goats, and more 
recently, engage in seasonal agriculture and work in state 
armed forces. Living in long, low-lying black tents made of 
camel and goat hair and wooden poles, the Bedouin migrate 
on a seasonal basis in search of pasture for their animals. The 
tent and its contents are individual property, but water, 
pasture, and land are the common property of the tribe. 

Every tent represents a family, and an encampment of 
tents — hayy — constitutes a clan, or qawm. A group of kindred 
clans forms a tribe, or qabila, and 'asabiyya is the unconditional 
loyalty of a clansmember to his or her tribe. A weaker tribe 
buys protection by paying the stronger tribe a price — khuiva. 

Bedouin have been characterized historically by urban 
Arab writers as vengeful and destructive, finding the agricul- 
ture and craft of sedentary life distasteful. In his al-Muqadimma, 
Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the Tunisian philosopher-historian, 
hypothesized that civilizations have a predetermined life 
cycle; they fall prey to the nomads in the frontiers whose 
bonds of solidarity (^asabiyya) are strong. However, oth- 
ers have described Bedouins by their well-known values of 
generosity and hospitality and high standards of poetic 

As state power has infringed on Bedouin areas of control, 
moves to settle the Bedouin, to provide schools for children, 
and to employ adults in wage-labor have met with mixed 
success in Egypt, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and the Arabian 
Gulf states. Bedouin strive to maintain their culture, social 
mores and traditions, while at the same time enjoying the 
benefits of technology, education, and health standards. 

See also Arabia, Pre-Islam; c Asabiyya; Ibn Khaldun. 

Abu Lughod, Lila. Veiled Sentiments. Berkeley: University of 
California Press, 1986. 

Abu Lughod, Lila. Writing Women's Worlds. Berkeley: Uni- 
versity of California Press, 1993. 

Baily, Clinton. Bedouin Poetry from Sinai and the Negev: Mirror 
of a Culture. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. 

Lancaster, William. The Rwala Bedouin Today. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1981. 

Lewis, Norman. Nomads and Settlers in Syria and Jordan, 
1800-1980. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. 

Shryock, Andrew. Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagina- 
tion: Oral History and Textual Authority in Tribal Jordan. 
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. 

Rochelle Davis 


A bid'a (pi. bida') is an innovation in theology, ritual, or the 
customs of daily life, that did not exist in early Islam but came 
into existence in the course of history. 

The term itself does not appear in the Qur'an, be it that 
the Holy Book includes other derivations of the root bd c . In 
the hadith literature bid' a is often used in contrast with the 
term sunna. In this sense sunna denotes the exemplary stand- 
ard for Muslim life, as this was established by the prophet 
Muhammad and the pious Muslims of early Islam; for this 
reason, a bid' a, being a deviation from the normative sunna, 
was almost exclusively regarded as negative. This idea can be 
found in the canonical collections of hadith literature and, for 
example, was put into words in the Prophetic saying: "The 
worst of all things are novelties (muhdathat); every novelty is 
an innovation (bid'a), and every bid'a is an error idalald), and 
every error "leads to hell." 

Apart from this negative understanding of the concept of 
bid'a, a. positive interpretation also could be given to the term. 
This was done by using another saying from the hadith 
literature. These words are attributed to the second caliph 
'Umar who, after he had seen an innovation in the rite of the 
ritual prayer (salaf), is reported to have said: "Truly, this is a 
good bid'a." On the basis of this saying the great jurisconsult 
al-Shafi'i (767-820) made a distinction between good and 
objectionable bid'as. As a result of this, the possibility was 
created to introduce new ideas and practices into Islam for 
which there were no precedents in early Islam, but which 
could now be accepted as good innovations. Later scholars 
further manipulated the term bid'a by adding various other, 
most often legal, adjectives to it. For example, the prolific 
Egyptian author Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (1445-1505) mentions 
the application of the five legal classifications (al-ahkam al- 
khamsd) to the term, thus making a distinction between 
"forbidden," "reprehensible," "indifferent," "recommended," 
and "obligatory" bid'as. 

Although this flexible interpretation of the concept of 
bid'a was thus known from an early period onward, various 
later scholars adhered to its negative interpretation exclu- 
sively. A well-known representative of this stream is the 

islam and the Muslim World 


bin Ladin, Usama 

theologian and jurisconsult Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya 
(1263-1328), who spent his entire life fighting bid'as, which 
had been added to the original doctrine and practice of Islam, 
for example, the cult of saints. Under the influence of his 
teachings, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) 
founded the rigid and intolerant reform movement known as 
Wahhabiyya, which, for example, regarded the use of tobacco 
and coffee as bid' a. This Wahhabi ideology is also followed by 
the present-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where conse- 
quently the concept of bid'a in its negative sense plays a 
prominent part in religious and social discourse. An interest- 
ing example of this is the official view on the celebration of 
the birthday (mawlid) of the prophet Muhammad, an opinion 
that was voiced often by the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, 
c Abd al-'Aziz ibn Baz (1910-1999). This festival is strictly 
forbidden, because it is regarded as a bid'a, "while every bid'a 
is an error." Despite the enormous respect for the Prophet, 
Wahhabis reject celebrating his mawlid because it is rightly 
understood as a later innovation. 

On the whole, however, in present-day Islam only a 
minority adhere to this limited, negative interpretation of the 
concept of bid'a, while the majority of Muslims approves of a 
flexible interpretation, which is more compatible with mod- 
ern beliefs and practices. 

See also Religious Institutions; Sunna. 

Fierro, Maribel. "The Treatises Against Innovations (kutub 
al-bida')." Der Islam 69 (1992): 204-246. 

Goldziher, Ignaz, "Hadith and Sunna." In Vol. 2, Muslim 
Studies (Muhammedanische Studien). Edited by S. M. Stern. 
Translated by C. R. Barber and S. M. Stern. London: 
Allen & Unwin, 1971. 

Rispler, Vardit. "Toward a New Understanding of the Term 
bid'a." Der Islam 68 (1991): 320-328. 

Nico J. G. Kaptein 

BIN LADIN, USAMA (1957- ) 

Usama bin Ladin is a Saudi dissident and leader of the al- 
Qa'ida organization. He was born in 1957 in Saudi Arabia. 
His father, Muhammad bin Ladin, was a Yemeni commoner 
who became a successful building contractor. He moved his 
family to Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. Muhammad sired seven- 
teen sons and established the Saudi Bin Ladin Group, a 
construction firm that eventually won large contracts from 
the Saudi royal family to renovate important icons of Saudi 
and Islamic religion and culture. These included several 
buildings in the cities of Mecca and Medina and many 
mosques, including the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 

Usama's mother, one of four wives to Muhammad bin 
Ladin, was from Damascus, Syria. Usama has remained close 
to her throughout his life. He married one of his mother's 
Syrian relatives, with whom he had a son. Usama attended 
school in Saudi Arabia where he came under the influence of 
the thought of Muhammad Qutb, the brother of an influen- 
tial Islamist ideologue named Sayyid Qutb and a Jordanian 
activist, Abdallah 'Azzam, who actively recruited Arab Mus- 
lim fighters to mount a jihad against the Soviet military 
occupation of Afghanistan in the early 1980s. That Usama 
bin Ladin visited and lived for a while in Europe has been 
reported by some writers, but it is unclear when that might 
have been, where he actually lived in Europe, or what he did 
while he was there. 

After the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979, bin 
Ladin went to Pakistan. There he met several leaders of jihadi 
movements who were mounting resistance efforts against the 
Russians on behalf of the Afghani Muslims. He joined forces 
with 'Abdallah Azzam to recruit non-Afghani Muslims, mainly 
Arabs, and to raise money and purchase weapons for an 
armed resistance against the Soviet military. After al-Qa c ida's 
growth and success, the two men had a falling out that led to 
the assassination of 'Azzam. Usama's considerable inherited 
wealth (estimated at between $270 and S500 million) from his 
father formed an important material contribution to this 
effort against the Soviets. According to several sources, an- 
other significant element in support of Arab militia resistance 
in Afghanistan (alleged and never denied) was money from 
the United States, channeled through the Central Intelli- 
gence Agency (C.I.A.) 

Usama bin Ladin will not be remembered as a religious 
scholar or intellectual in the Muslim world. He nonetheless 
has attracted a considerable following, first of mujahidin 
(guerilla) fighters against real and perceived enemies of Islam, 
such as the Soviet military and the U.S. In addition he has 
gained passive approval and verbal support for his cause more 
widely among Muslims around the world — many of whom 
openly disavow the terrorism and violence that is attributed 
to his leadership even while providing such support. Bin 
Ladin's writings include poetry and coauthored treatises and 
statements that use code words and symbols (such as refer- 
ences to Crusaders and Jews) to express opposition to the 
State of Israel, European Christendom, and the United 
States, especially their respective control of and military 
encroachment on the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, Mecca, 
and Medina. 

Bin Ladin's theological worldview follows the Salafi and 
Wahhabi puritanical interpretation and expression of Islam, 
as well as the trenchant articulation of this strain of Islam 
provided by the Egyptian dissident intellectual, Sayyid Qutb. 
Some observers have argued that although the fallen Soviet 
Union, the United States, and the globalization of capitalism 

1 08 

islam and the Muslim World 

Biography and Hagiography 

were the spectacular targets of bin Ladin's active career, in 
fact it is accommodationist Muslim regimes (like his native 
Saudi Arabia) that rely on U.S. and Western support that 
have been the real targets of his criticism and activism. 

See also Fundamentalism; Jihad; Qa c ida, al-; Qutb, 
Sayyid; Terrorism; Wahhabiyya. 


Gunaratna, Rohan. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. 
New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. 

Richard C. Martin 


Islamic civilization from an early period gave importance to 
various biographical genres, for example, the life isird) of the 
Prophet, works establishing priority in joining the Muslim 
community, and lives of saints, but rarely, until the modern 
period, autobiographies. 

Particularly important is the relationship between early 
biography and the hadith collections. The Him al-rijal, or 
"science of the men," was a branch of Islamic historiography 
verifying the reliability (ta'dil) of hadith transmitters accord- 
ing to criteria such as their direct acquaintance with the 
Prophet and their veracity and virtues. The qualities (fada'il) 
and special merits (khasa'is) of important persons constitute a 
subsection of most hadith collections and reveal early Muslim 
concepts of charisma, character, or religious authority. An- 
other hadith topic that blossomed into a genre of biographi- 
cal literature is asceticism (zuhd). Compilations on this subject 
provide insights into the early development of Sufism and 
how ascetic behaviors established rankings of merit and 

Muslim religious biography and hagiography were com- 
posed in specific genres. One of the most important bio- 
graphical forms is the tabaqat (ranks or classes). This name 
refers to the system for the arrangement of biographical 
notices according to notions of contiguity, rank, or virtue. 
The earliest extant example is the Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir of 
Ibn Sa c d (d. 845), which contains some 4,250 biographical 
notices of men and women of the first Islamic generations. 
The inclusion of ordinary persons in the classical biographi- 
cal dictionaries indicates how the history of the Islamic 
community was understood in this period as being consti- 
tuted, to a large extent, by the contribution of individuals to 
building up and transmitting its specific worldview and culture. 

The telling of lives in traditional Islamic biographical 
forms does not present a series of events or cumulative 

islam and the Muslim World 

reflections as contributing to character development. Rather, 
biographical notices serve to establish origins and display a 
person's type or example through presenting his or her 
discrete actions and sayings. The tabaqat genre, which is most 
popular in Arabic, might focus on certain religious profes- 
sions such as the biographies of jurists, judges, Qur'an reciters 
and memorizers, or Sufis. Other tabaqat works chronicle 
individuals from a particular city or region, and some repre- 
sent "centennial" biographies that record all prominent Mus- 
lims who died in a particular Islamic century. 

Tadhkira (memorial) works are collections of the lives of 
persons engaged in scholarly or religious activities. They are 
more common in later periods, especially in Iran, the Otto- 
man Empire, and South Asia. 

Malfuzat are records of audiences of notable scholars or 
Sufis. This genre is indigenous to South Asian Islam where 
the early Indian Sufis are known largely through records 
preserved in this form. Malfuzat as a biographical genre often 
provides a more spontaneous, authentic flavor of the person 
and his circle in contrast to the more idealized portrayals of 
the tadhkirat. Individual biographies (tarjama, pi. tarajim) and 
autobiographies were less common in earlier periods al- 
though a small number may be found. Notable is al-Ghazali's 
Deliverance from Error (d. 1111) a narrative of his spiritual 
search for truth. One should not neglect to mention the 
biographical significance of other related genres, for exam- 
ple, letters and travel accounts, such as those of the famous 
Ibn Battuta (1304-1369). 

In the medieval period bio- or autobiographical notices 
were sometimes prefaced or appended to a scholar's works 
and read like a curriculum vitae, that included the individual's 
teachers, places visited, and works studied, transmitted, or 
composed. Medieval Muslim autobiography and biography 
often featured accounts of dreams or visionary experiences 
indicating that the tradition considered such events as impor- 
tant and meaningful. 

More recently, Western literature has influenced bio- 
graphical and autobiographical writing in many Islamic so- 
cieties. In South Asia innovations in the tradition of religious 
biography were related to the development of Urdu as a 
modern prose language in the late nineteenth century and to 
efforts to combine Islamic and "modern" learning embodied 
in the Aligarh movement. Most significant among this trend 
are the writings of Shibli Nu'mani (1857-1914), who pre- 
pared a series of monographs on "Heroes of Islam" including 
studies of the caliph Umar, the jurist Abu Hanifa, the poet 
Rumi, and the theologian al-Ghazali, as well as the Prophet. 
This new style of biography was marked by critical evaluation 
and a rationalist treatment of the subject. 

As the forces of westernization have increasingly pene- 
trated many Muslim societies, the canons of modern litera- 
ture have tended to favor the novel, short story, and poetry 

1 09 

Biruni, al- 

written in free verse over traditional biographical forms. 
With the decline in the popularity of Sufism, the audience for 
collective memorials and devotional biographies has also 
decreased. In most regions the traditional Islamic biographi- 
cal forms have declined in importance as secular, literary life 
stories take precedence and may provide inspiration for 
serialization as televised historical dramas. 

Traditional genres of religious biography still persist in 
religious contexts and in more traditional segments of Mus- 
lim societies. In the modern period, however, a number of 
new developments have occurred. Among the most striking 
are: an increased use of religious biography for personal 
edification; its use in reinforcing symbols of national or 
regional identity; and its functioning to inspire or legitimate 
political action and Islamist identifications. 

For example, in Iranian Shi'ism the lives of the imams 
have been a source of inspired poetry and performances of 
commemoration. A significant and instructive trend in their 
modern use is that during the prerevolutionary period in Iran, 
the focus of Husayn's biography shifted from his role as tragic 
martyr to portraying him as an activist challenging the unjust 
social order. 

The role of females also receives increased attention. 
Traditional Muslim scholars now present early Muslim he- 
roic women in ways that honor their contributions to Islamic 
history while reinforcing traditional patterns of female be- 
havior. In contrast, the Moroccan feminist historian Fatima 
Mernissi has presented a revisionist look at the lives of a 
number of prominent early Muslim women that attempts to 
recover their independence of action and defiance of sup- 
posed cultural norms. Zaynab al-Ghazali, a contemporary 
Egyptian activist in the Muslim Brotherhood, offered her 
prison memories in Hayati (My life) in the form of a heroic 
narrative with hagiographic undertones. Islamist autobiogra- 
phies and convert narratives of American and European 
Muslims open up further possibilities for hybridization in 
biographical accounts. 

See also Arabic Literature; Genealogy; Historical 


Hermansen, Marcia. "Interdisciplinary Approaches to Islamic 
Biographical Materials." Religion 18, no. 4 (1988): 163-182. 

Lawrence, Bruce B. Notes from a Distant Flute: The Extant 
Literature of Pre-Mughal Indian Sufism. Tehran: Imperial 
Iranian Academy of Philosophy, 1978. 

Malti-Douglas, Fedwa. Medicines of the Soul: Female Bodies and 
Sacred Geographies in a Transnational Islam. Berkeley: Uni- 
versity of California, 2001. 

Mojaddedi, Jawid. Sufi Biographies from Al-Sulami to Jami: 
Reworking Time Past. Richmond, Va.: Curzon, 2000. 

Roded, Ruth. Women in Islamic Biographical Collections: from 
Ibn Sa'd to Who's Who. Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner Pub- 
lishers, 1994. 

Marcia Hermansen 

BIRUNI, AL- (C. 973-1050) 

Al-Biruni was a polymath of the Islamic eleventh century who 
wrote in multiple scientific fields. Included among his sub- 
jects were astronomy, mathematics, pharmacology, and min- 
eralogy, and he also contributed important works of history 
and cultural studies. 

Al-Biruni originated from the region of Khwarazm, and 
his name refers to the fact that he was born in a suburb of the 
capital. Although Persian, he preferred to write in Arabic. 
When Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna conquered Khwarazm in 
1017, al-Biruni was taken as a prisoner to his capital. He 
became the court astrologer and then accompanied Mahmud 
on his expeditions to northwestern India. This led al-Biruni 
to study Sanskrit and Indian religions and customs, which he 
recorded in Kitab ta c rikh al-Hind (Alberunfs India). His writ- 
ings include significant observations on the natural features, 
social structure, and religious practices of the non-Muslim 
Indians. He was a prolific author of some 180 works of 
varying lengths, including many important treatises on mathe- 
matical and astronomical topics. 

See also Astronomy; Historical Writing; Knowledge; 
Science, Islam and. 


Biruni, al-. Alberuni's India. Translated by Eduard Sachau. 
London: Keegan Paul, 1910. 

Marcia Hermansen 


The body is the locus of human existence and activity in 
Islam. Islamic law stipulates the regular purification of the 
body, requires the use of a body in performing rituals, and 
views the body as the site of both social continuity and 
punishment in the case of violating social norms. 

Purification and renunciation of the body are required for 
both men and women in Islamic law. Ritual purification 
involves washing and wiping certain parts of the body, and is 
invalidated by natural bodily emissions (urine, feces, pus, 

1 1 0 

islam and the Muslim World 

Bourghiba, Habib 

Though these Muslim women wear their veils in slightly different styles, all of the women are sufficiently covered. © Peter Turnley/Corbis 

blood, vomit), sleep, unconsciousness, insanity, and sexual 
contact. Most jurists also agree that touching one's genitals 
(penis, vagina, anus) also invalidates purification. The ritual 
fast during the month of Ramadan requires keeping sub- 
stances from entering the body (food, drink, medicine) and 
abstinence from sex. 

although some authorities also include in this the female 
voice. Crimes such as theft require the amputation of limbs 
(hands and feet), and other crimes such as fornication require 
death by stoning under certain circumstances. 

See also Circumcision; Gender; c Ibadat. 

The body is also of symbolic importance for the rites of 
the pilgrimage to Mecca. While in the sanctuary at Mecca 
pilgrims are not allowed to eat the meat of wild animals or 
plants. Pilgrims are not allowed to have sex, and marriages 
performed during the pilgrimage are invalid. Nor are pil- 
grims allowed to wear sewn clothing or apply perfume to 
their bodies. The hair and fingernails of pilgrims cannot be 
cut during the pilgrimage but are cut upon exiting from the 
sanctuary at the end of the pilgrimage. Many classical sources 
report that the prophet Muhammad distributed his hair and 
fingernails, cut at the end of his last pilgrimage, to his 
followers as relics. 

Islamic law recognizes the body as the legal sphere of the 
individual. The "private area" ( c urwah), the area which must 
be covered in public, is defined differently for men and 
women. For men it is the area between the waist and the 
knees, for women it is the area from the neck to the ankles, 


Katz, Marion Holmes. Body of Text: The Emergence of the 
Sunni Law of Ritual Purity. Albany: State University of 
New York Press, 2002. 

Reinhart, Kevin A. "Impurity/No Danger." History of Relig- 
ions 30 (1990-1991): 1-24. 

Zannad, Traki. Les lieux du corps en Islam. Paris: Publisud, 1994. 

Brannon M. Wheeler 

BOURGHIBA, HABIB (1901-2000) 

Habib Bourghiba was the most prominent leader of Tunisia's 
Neo-Destour movement, which led that country to indepen- 
dence from France in 1 956. Born into a middle-class family of 

isfam and the Muslim World 

1 1 1 

Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 

limited resources at Monastir in 1901, Bourghiba was edu- 
cated at the prestigious Sadiqi College and at the Lycee 
Carnot in Tunis; subsequently he earned a law degree at the 
University of Paris. After returning to Tunisia in the mid- 
192 0s, he became increasingly involved in the Destour 
(constitutionalist) movement, which was seeking Tunisia's 
autonomy from France. By the 1930s he broke with its 
leadership, which he considered too socially and religiously 
conservative, and founded the Neo-Destour party, which 
tended toward secular and liberal nationalism. 

Once independence came, however, he transformed the 
Neo-Destour party — later the Destourian Socialist Party — 
into a ruling single party. This action allowed him to gain and 
maintain a tight grip over the Tunisian political process for 
three decades. He was elected three times without opposition 
to the presidency, ultimately becoming president for life in 
1974. In the meantime, the economy stagnated or declined 
and the gap between the ruling elites and the masses widened, 
not only materially, but also culturally. Various Islamist 
groups arose in a protest movement appealing to traditional 
religious values. In November 1987, with Bourghiba's physi- 
cal and mental health clearly deteriorating, he was deposed by 
the sitting Prime Minister Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Habib 
Bourghiba died in his native city of Monastir. 

See also Modernization, Political: Constitutionalism; 
Secularism, Islamic. 


Murphy, Emma C. Economic and Political Change in Tuni- 
sia: from Bourguiba to Ben Ali. New York: St. Martin's 
Press, 1999. 

John Ruedy 


Conventional terms for the political entities in Central Asia 
were ruled by the khans of the Shibani-Abulkhayrid (1500 to 
1598), the Toqay-Timurid (1598 to the late 18th century) 
families, and the emirs of the Uzbek Manghit tribe (1785 to 
1920). The core territories of the khanate and emirate were 
the string of oases along the course of the river Zarafshan 
with the cities Bukhara and Samarkand. During most of the 
sixteenth to mid-eighteenth centuries, Tashkent and Balkh 
also belonged to the Bukharan dominions. 

In 1500, Muhammad Shibani drove the Timurids from 
Transoxania and conquered a territory reaching from Tashkent 
to Khwarazm and Khurasan. Shibani, a descendant of Gen- 
ghis Khan through his grandson Shiban, had served Timurid 

and Chaghatay rulers during the last decades of the fifteenth 
century. The principal source of Muhammad Shibani's au- 
thority was his claim of descent from Genghis Khan. He 
derived additional authority from the fact that his grandfa- 
ther, Abu '1-Khayr, had ruled a large confederation of Turco- 
Mongol tribes in Western Siberia known as the Uzbeks. But 
Muhammad Shibani also propagated Islamic legitimacy by 
adopting the title of caliph. 

Sovereignty in the extended Shibanid-Abulkhayrid family 
was corporate, embodied in the sultans (agnatic princes who 
traced their descent from Abu 3 1-Khayr through their father's 
lineage) under the overall khanship of Muhammad Shibani. 
The khan distributed the conquered territories as appanages 
(land grants) among the eligible Abulkhayrid princes. The 
crisis following the unexpected death of Muhammad Shibani 
Khan in battle against Safavid Qizilbash troops (1510) led to a 
major reorganization of rule. A short power struggle between 
the leaders of the major Abulkhayrid clans was resolved in a 
general meeting (quriltai) convened in 1512 in Samarkand. 
Supreme sovereignty as khan was from then on nominally 
assigned to the senior Abulkhayrid agnate. 

The appanages became hereditary dominions. The prin- 
cipal appanages, each dominated by one of the Abulkhayrid 
cousin clans, were Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, and 
Miyankal (the region between Samarkand and Bukhara). In 
1526 Balkh and the lands between the Hindu Kush and the 
River Amu were regained and allotted to the Jani-Beg clan. 
This appanage system remained relatively stable until the 
mid-century, when unclear succession in Bukhara triggered 
open interclan conflict. Abdallah II, a member of the Jani- 
Beg clan, eventually established himself in Bukhara in 1557 
and gradually expanded his domination over the other 
Abulkhayrid appanages. Abdallah took residence in Bukhara 
and initiated large-scale urban development projects. 

The political process of electing a supreme khan on the 
basis of seniority and distributing the territory as appanages 
to the eligible junior members of the royal clan was continued 
by the Toqay Timurids, another clan that claimed descent 
from Genghis Khan and took over in the secession crisis that 
followed the death of Abdallah's son in 1 598. The number of 
appanages was reduced to two: Bukhara, the residence of the 
supreme khan and capital of the northern and central territo- 
ries of the khanate, and Balkh, the center of the areas south 
of the Amu. 

The military backbone of Abulkhayrid and Toqay-Timurid 
rule were the Uzbek emirs, leaders of the Turco-Mongol 
nomadic tribal groups who had brought Muhammad Shibani 
to power. They gradually merged with the old ruling class of 
Timurid Central Asia. The hierarchy of the emirs symboli- 
cally followed a pattern of military-tribal organization that is 
thought to date back to the army of Genghis Khan. However, 

1 1 2 

islam and the Muslim World 

Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of 

The Kalyan Minaret, built circa 1127, in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The 
emirate of Bukhara was abolished in 1920 when its last amir, 
'Alim, went into exile during the occupation of the city by Russian 
revolutionary troops. © Diego Lezama Orezzou/Corbis 

this does not mean that the Uzbek emirs were a closed group, 
nor that they were restricted to military duty. The borderline 
between military and civil administration was to some extent 
fluid. Service in the civil administration appears to have been 
an integral part of an emir's career. 

On the other hand, high civil officials of nontribal back- 
ground could enter the ranks of the emirs. Until the mid- 
eighteenth century, the highest offices were the ataliq, the 
divanbegi, and the hakim. The ataliq (princely tutor) seems to 
have served as military-administrative counselor and a liaison 
between the khan and the sultans. Hakims served as gover- 
nors of territorial subunits of the appanages. The divanbegi 
was the head of the fiscal administration. However, to what 
extent this title (and others of lower rank) matched well- 
defined administrative duties or rather were nominal ranks is 
difficult to determine. The high ranks of religious offices 
were filled by members of a limited number of families of 
noble descent (sayyid, khwaja), the most noteworthy being the 
Juybari khwajas. 

islam and the Muslim World 

The emirs were compensated for their services by assign- 
ments of pastureland and the revenues from villages. Origi- 
nally given to an individual and frequently redistributed, 
these grants tended to become hereditary, and as a result 
certain emirid clans and their tribal followings became closely 
linked to defined territories. The Manghit tribal group thus 
came to dominate the oasis of Bukhara and the pasturelands 
around Qarshi. 

The growing imbalance between the authority of the khan 
and the tribal leaders resulted in a radical change in the crisis 
that followed the temporary surrender of the khan of Bukhara 
to Nadir Shah in 1740. The ataliq Muhammad Rahim, an 
emir of the Manghit clan, was able to assume power in 
Bukhara and even to adopt the title khan in 1756. His cousin 
Shah Murad (1785-1800) abolished the khanate and ruled 
with the caliphal title amir al-mu'minin (Commander of the 
Faithful), thus lending his nonregal status additional Islamic 

The transition from the neo-Chinggisid khanate to the 
Manghit emirate can be characterized by two major develop- 
ments: The legitimation of rule was now Islamic rather than 
based on descent from Genghis Khan, and the power of the 
non-Manghit Uzbek emirs was systematically reduced. The 
Manghit emirs of Bukhara created a small standing army and 
so were able to become largely independent of tribal military 
support. The connection of military resources and access to 
regional revenues that had always made the Uzbek emirs a 
potential threat to the rulers's authority was gradually dis- 
solved. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the 
emirate of Bukhara appears to have become a fairly central- 
ized state. The emirate was governed through a complex 
military-civil bureaucracy headed by a chief minister called 
qoshbegi. The territory was divided into provinces (twenty- 
seven in 1 9 1 5) which in turn consisted of fiscal-administrative 
units. The oasis of Bukhara was under direct administration, 
while the other provinces were governed by officials called beks. 

Already during the reign of the emir Nasrallah (1 826-1 860) 
the emirate felt the incipient impact of the conflicting imperi- 
alistic interests of Russia and Britain. In 1868, the emir 
Muzaffar al-Din (1860-1885) had to accept the annexation of 
the eastern part of his dominions, including Samarkand, by 
tsarist Russia. The so-called friendship treaty between the 
governor general of Russian Turkestan and the emir of 
Bukhara in 1873 sealed the emirate's loss of independence. 
Though nominally still a sovereign state, the emirate was 
gradually integrated into the sphere of influence of the 
Russian Empire. In 1920, Russian revolutionary troops occu- 
pied Bukhara. The last emir, 'Alim (r. 1910-1920), went into 
exile and the emirate was abolished. 

A photo of the arched entryway to the Miri-Arab Madrasa 
appears in the volume one color plates. 

1 1 3 

Bukhari, al- 

See also Central Asia, Islam in; Central Asian Culture 
and Islam. 


Becker, Seymour. Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara 
and Khiva, 1865-1924. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1968. 

McChesney, Robert D. Central Asia: Foundations of Change. 
Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1996. 

Florian Schwarz 

BUKHARI, AL- (810-870) 

Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Bukhari, who was born in Bukhara 
in central Asia, compiled the most important hadith collec- 
tion in Sunni Islam, called al-Jami' al-sahih (The sound 
collection). Al-Bukhari is said to have started to learn hadiths 
("the sayings" of the prophet Muhammad) at about ten years 
of age, having been blessed with a remarkably retentive 
memory and a sharp intellect. At the age of sixteen, he made 
the pilgrimage and traveled to Mecca and Medina to study 
with well-known hadith teachers there. He next went to 
Egypt, and spent the following sixteen years traveling through 
much of Asia in the pious pursuit of hadiths. On his return to 
Bukhara, he began to scrutinize the roughly 600,000 reports 
he had collected. He is said to have applied the most stringent 
standards in determining the reliability of these reports, 
which led him to record only about 7,397 of them. His 
painstaking efforts resulted in the Sahih, which by the tenth 
century had achieved near universal recognition among Mus- 
lims, who regarded al-Bukhari's collection as including the 
most reliable and sound hadiths attributed to the Prophet, 
based particularly on analysis of their chains of transmission. 
The Sahih continues to enjoy an almost "canonical" status 
today, second only to the Qur'an in importance as the source 
for moral and legal prescriptions. The standard edition in use 

today was prepared by Ali b. Muhammad al-Yunini (d. 1 302). 
Numerous commentaries have been written on the Sahih; in 
recent times, partial and complete translations of this collec- 
tion have been made in a number of languages. Al-Bukhari 
died in his hometown of Bukhara at age sixty. 

See also Hadith. 

Rauf, Muhammad Abdul. "Hadith Literature." In Vol. 1, 
Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period. Edited 
by A. F. L. Beeston, et al. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge 
University Press, 1983. 

Robson, James. "al-Bukhari." In Vol. I, Encyclopaedia of Islam. 
Edited by H. A. R. Gibb, et al. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960. 

Asma Afsaruddin 


In sura 17:1 of the Qur'an, the prophet Muhammad, led by 
the angel Gabriel, journeys in one night (israq') to "the Far 
Distant Place of Worship," interpreted as Jerusalem. In the 
hadith, Muhammad continues on to the heavens (mi'raf), 
describing his mount as a small white steed, called al-Buraq. 
Later literary and art-historical traditions give al-Buraq a 
human face, wings, and dappled coloration. This miraculous 
steed is depicted in the fourteenth-century world history of 
Rashiduddin, the fifteenth-century Timurid Mi'rajname, and 
sixteenth-century Safavid Khamsas of Nizami. Buraq's impor- 
tance continues today, appearing in Sunni paintings com- 
memorating a hajj to Mecca, or in Shi'ite popular art, which 
often shows al-Buraq alongside Husayn's horse at Karbala. 

See also Mi c raj; Tasawwuf. 

Car el Bertram 

1 1 4 

islam and the Muslim World 


The foundations of present-day Cairo rest upon the ancient 
capital of Memphis, one of the oldest urban settlements in the 
world, which flourished between 5000 and 2500 b.c.e. Mem- 
phis was finally surpassed by the seaport of Alexandria when 
Egypt became a Mediterranean colony of the Greeks, but its 
strategic position ensured continuous settlement. As a result, 
the city was still thriving at the time of the Roman conquest 
around 24 b.c.e. Although the region was contested by the 
Romans and Persians at the opening of the seventh century 
c.e., it was finally the Arabs who prevailed, thereby setting 
into motion the genesis of Cairo or al-Qahira, The Victori- 
ous City, as it is still referred to in Arabic. Cairo would in time 
grow into one of the most important religious, cultural, and 
political centers of the Muslim world. 

The urban centers that sprouted under Islamic civilization 
surfaced from either army camps, that eventually developed 
into permanent cities, or princely towns established to com- 
memorate new dynasties and to affirm their authority. Cairo 
was conceived out of an amalgamation of such regions, in 
which an army camp settlement fused with the princely 
centers established at its periphery. As such, the successive 
stages of Cairo's genesis also capture the histories of her past 

In 640 c.e. the forces of the illustrious Arab general 'Amr 
ibn al- c As reached what is present-day Cairo. He set up camp 
there and established the first mosque in Africa, which still 
stands and is one of the most important religious icons of 
Cairo today. The settlement itself came to be known as 
Fustat, which simply means "entrenchment," and eventually 
developed into a burgeoning city. The first major dynastic 
shift in the Muslim empire left its mark upon the Egyptian 
landscape as well and the Abbasid victory over the Ummayads 
in 750 c.e. gave rise to the princely town of al-Askar (the 
Cantonment). In the century that followed the communities 
of Fustat and al-Askar fused to form a combined settlement 

stretching along the axis of the Nile River. The atmosphere 
of growing provincial autonomy in the period that followed 
fueled the ambitions of Ahmad ibn Tulun, a man of Turkish 
extraction appointed as deputy for the governor of Egypt. He 
founded his own princely city slightly to the north of al- 
Askar in 870 c.e., which was called al-Qata'i' (the Wards), 
reflecting its feudal base. The awesome mosque of Ibn Tulun, 
built between 876 and 878, is one of the most prominent 
legacies inherited from that era and still stands, surrounded 
by the crowded metropolis of today. 

The most significant event in the genesis of Cairo is 
undoubtedly the rise of the Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty in Tunisia 
at the beginning of the tenth century. The Fatimid caliphate 
reached its full expression on Egyptian soil and it was its 
fourth caliph, Mu'izz al-Din, who gained sovereignty over 
the area in 969. His brilliant general Jawhar led the campaign 
and almost immediately began staking out the walls of a new 
palace city after his arrival. The city was initially called al- 
Mansuriyya but was renamed al-Qahira al-Mu'izziyya four 
years later, to commemorate and celebrate the arrival of the 
caliph. With the coming of Mu'izz al-Din, Cairo or al- 
Qahirah was formally inducted into world history. 

Al-Qahirah was developed into a city of lavish beauty and 
intellectual vitality under the Fatimids. But the city remained 
largely inaccessible to common people from areas like Fustat, 
who could only enter the royal enclosure by special permit. 
Ironically, the al-Azhar University, which is today recognized 
as one of the most important intellectual centers of Sunni 
Islam, was established by the Fatimids to promote their 
Shi'ite doctrine. 

The closing of the eleventh century marked the beginning 
of the first Crusade and also the decline of the Fatimid 
dynasty. In the period between 1 164 and 1 169 Cairo became 
a pawn in the power struggle between the Seljuks of Syria and 
the Christian forces in Jerusalem. Although still nominally 
ruled by the Fatimids, true control of the city eventually fell 

1 1 5 


A 1996 aerial view of Cairo and the Nile River. Cairo evolved at 
the site of the ancient city of Memphis, one of the first urban 
settlements, dating from 5000 b.c.e. In the tenth century c.E., the 
Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty built a palace city called al-Qahira al- 
Mu'izziyya. Al-Qahira, or Cairo, was at that time a walled, beauti- 
ful city inaccessible to non-royals from outlying areas. Entry to the 
royal area was granted with special permission. © Thomas Hartwell/ 
Corbis SABA 

into the hands of the young Sunni governor Saladin (Salah al- 
Din) al-Ayyubi, sent to defend Cairo against the Crusader 
campaigns. Saladin in time established the Ayyubid dynasty 
and even reconquered Jerusalem. His mercurial rise contrib- 
uted once again to the further transformation of Cairo. 
Under him, the mosque of c Amr was restored and al-Azhar 
University was purged of its Shi'ite bias. A madrasa (school) 
was founded at the tomb of Imam al-Shafi'i soon after the 
Ayyubid conquest of Egypt and a mausoleum commemorat- 
ing the great imam is still in existence today. But Saladin's 
most important and long-lived addition to the city was the 
Citadel, built for him in 1176 as a place of refuge and 
continuously expanded upon by later generations. 

By the fourteenth century Cairo was recognized as a world 
capital, reaching its zenith under the Mamluks. Cairo's great- 
est growth and development took place in this period. In spite 
of constant forays against the Crusaders and Mongols, the 
Mamluk rulers still devoted energies to the development of 

the city. For example, Sultan Qalawun erected his famous 
hospital in the heart of the city during this era. Although the 
Cairo of the fifteenth century still surpassed any European 
city in terms of urban development and population, this 
period also marks the beginning of its decline. Cairo's eco- 
nomic prosperity was reduced considerably due to Vasco da 
Gama's successful circumnavigation of Africa and his arrival 
in India in 1498. The East- West Oriental spice trade with 
Europe, which passed through Egypt, was thereby severed, 
stranding Cairo in a backwater of the rapidly changing global 
map. Not even the Ottomans, who finally ousted the Mamluks 
in 1517, were able to hamper the city's downward spiral. 

The modernizing reforms instituted by Isma'il Pasha in 
the late nineteenth century ultimately breathed life back into 
Cairo. These reforms ironically were inspired by the urban 
developments of modern-day Europe. Cairo is today the 
largest metropolis in the Middle East and is now being stifled 
by overurbanization resulting from overcentralization. This 
is but the latest challenge facing the City Victorious. Having 
always been at the forefront of Arab and Islamic trends, it is a 
challenge to which Cairo will surely rise. 

See also Sultanates: Ayyubids; Sultanates: Ghaznavid; 
Sultanates: Mamluk; Sultanates: Seljuk. 


Abu-Lughod, Janet. Cairo: 1001 Years of the City Victorious. 
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971. 

Ibrahim, Saad Eddin; Sobhi, Hoda M; and El-Ahwal, Abdel 
K. "Problems of Over-Urbanization: The Case of Cairo." 
In The Middle East City: Ancient Traditions Confront a 
Modern World. Edited by Abdulaziz Y. Saqqaf. New York: 
Paragon House Publisher, 1987. 

Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. New York: Cambridge 
University Press, 1988. 

Raymond, Andre. "Cairo." In The Modern Middle East. Edited 
by Albert Hourani; Philip S. Khoury; and Mary C. Wilson. 
London: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 1993. 

Rodenbeck, Max. Cairo: The City Victorious. London: Pica- 
dor, 1998. 

Rogers, J. M. "Al-Kahira." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. 
Edited by E. Van Donzel; B. Lewis; and Ch. Pellat. 
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978. 

Aslam Farouk-Alli 


In classical and medieval Islamic history and juristic theory, 
the Arabic term khilafa, of which "caliphate" is the anglicized 
form, denotes the political headship of the Muslim commu- 
nity. The term khalifa — which is used in the Qur'an with 
reference to Adam (2:30) and David (38:26), besides seven 
other occurrences in the plural — is understood in Sunni 

1 1 6 

islam and the Muslim World 


juristic theory as the successor of the prophet Muhammad. 
The position of the caliph is the most central of all political 
institutions in the history of classical Islam, and issues per- 
taining to the legitimacy of those occupying this office, the 
scope of its powers, and the theoretical and practical accom- 
modations forced upon it during the course of its long career 
are central to the political and religious history of Islam. 

History of the Institution 

Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad did not appoint 
anyone to succeed him on his death. According to this view, 
which has also been generally adopted by modern scholars of 
early Islamic history, a number of the companions of Muham- 
mad congregated in Medina immediately after his death to 
deliberate on the question of his succession. At this meeting, 
Abu Bakr, a member of Muhammad's tribe of Quraysh and 
one of the most influential of his companions, was elected as 
the first caliph. The succession was soon recognized by the 
other companions, including Ali, the initially recalcitrant 
cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, who was later to 
become the focus of the legitimist claims of the Shi'a. The 
latter's view of Muhammad's succession is squarely at odds 
with that of the Sunnis. To them, Muhammad had, in fact, 
designated a successor in the person of 'Ali, and most of the 
companions of the Prophet were culpable for subverting this 
explicit testament, as indeed were the successors of the first- 
generation Muslims for their continued denial of the claims 
of Ali's descendants, the imams, to the political and religious 
headship of Islam. 

As the rival Shi'ite and Sunni perspectives on early Islam — 
and especially on the locus of legitimate authority after 
Muhammad — suggest, there are competing, often irreconcil- 
able, narratives that comprise the history and historiography 
of the early caliphate. In the form that these and other 
narratives have come down to the present day, they are also 
relatively late (with the earliest extant sources on the caliphate 
dating from the 9th century), and their content and structure 
often reveal considerable instability in how they were trans- 
mitted or variously rearranged by different hands before, 
and even after, being committed to writing. Early Islamic 
historiography may provide rich clues to the controversies on 
questions of religious and political authority during the first 
centuries of Islam, but it does not serve well as a reliable guide 
to the history of the caliphate. Yet, if sources do not lend 
themselves to a detailed reconstruction of the careers of 
individual caliphs during Islam's first two centuries or more, 
modern scholars generally agree that even the tendentiousness 
of the extant accounts does allow an overview of the caliphate's 
history along something like the following lines. 

The caliphate of Abu Bakr (632-634), which signified the 
continuation of the polity that Muhammad had founded in 
Medina, was challenged by a number of tribes in the Arabian 
Peninsula. They had acknowledged Muhammad's authority 
by embracing Islam and sending tribute to Medina, but 

several of them now refused to continue their tributary status, 
and some renounced allegiance to the new faith as well. Abu 
Bakr's first challenge was to subdue these rebellious tribes to 
secure the future of the nascent caliphate. The armies he sent 
against them did not stop at reasserting Medina's authority, 
however, but embarked on an extraordinarily daring path of 
conquests outside the Arabian Peninsula. Muhammad had 
already led campaigns in the Syrian desert, and Muslim 
armies now began operations simultaneously in the Byzan- 
tine territories of Syria and Palestine and in the Sassanian 
territories. The degree to which the conquest of the Byzan- 
tine and Sassanian territories was the result of careful plan- 
ning or coordination from Medina is uncertain; yet by the 
time Abu Bakr died (634), two years after the death of 
Muhammad, the early Islamic state was already on its way to 
becoming a major world empire. 

The beginnings of the administrative organization of the 
caliphate are credited to Abu Bakr's immediate successor, 
'Urnar ibn al-Khattab (r. 634-644). He created a military 
register (diivari) for the payment of the troops and for the 
disbursement of pensions to other members of the Muslim 
community. It was in his reign that the first garrison towns 
were established in the conquered lands, a system of taxation 
was put in place, and efforts were made to minimize the social 
and economic disruptions inherent in this rapid conquest. Yet 
it was not just the conquered people but also the new 
conquerors who had to cope with the changes set in motion 
by the expansion of the Medinan state. Entire tribes came to 
settle in the newly acquired territories, and, quite apart from 
such rivalries as they may have brought with them from their 
earlier environs, new grievances and conflicts were provoked 
by the competing claims of those who had converted to Islam 
early or late (which determined the share of one's stipends), 
by the unfamiliar demands of the nascent state on its subjects, 
and by the conduct and policies of the caliph or his agents. 

Such resentments came to the surface in the reign of 
'Uthman ibn Affan (r. 644-656), the third successor of 
Muhammad, who was eventually murdered in Medina by 
disaffected Arab tribesmen from the garrisons of Kufa, Basra, 
and Egypt. The murder of 'Uthman inaugurated the series of 
bitter conflicts within the Muslim community that are collec- 
tively known as the fitna — a highly evocative term suggesting 
a time of temptation and trial, dissension, and chaos. This 
civil war, Islam's first, was to continue throughout the reign 
of 'Uthman's successor, c Ali ibn Abi Talib (r. 656-661), and 
it ended only with the latter's assassination and the rise of the 
Umayyad dynasty (r. 661-750). The events of these years 
were debated by Muslims for centuries: It is to these events 
that later Muslims looked in explaining and arguing over 
their sectarian divisions, some of which were to prove perma- 
nent. Even in later centuries, it was never easy to explain how 
the first community of believers, formed by the Prophet's 
own guidance, had fallen into such turmoil so soon after 
his death. 

islam and the Muslim World 

1 1 7 


The Umayyads. Like their predecessors, the Umayyads too 
were members of the Quraysh tribe. Unlike their predeces- 
sors, all four of whom came, after much controversy, to be set 
apart from subsequent rulers and to be revered by Sunni 
Muslims as the Rashidun, the "rightly guided" caliphs, the 
rise of the Umayyads marked the establishment of a caliphal 
dynasty. Mu'awiya (r. 661-680), the founder of this dynasty, 
based his rule on careful cultivation and manipulation of ties 
with tribal notables (ashraf), and it was through such ties that 
he was able not just to govern but also to have his son, Yazid I 
(r. 680-683), recognized as his heir. This system of rule 
through tribal intermediaries was short-lived, however. On 
Mu'awiya's death, several disparate revolts — often character- 
ized as the second civil war — erupted in different parts of the 
empire. Among these was the revolt of Husayn, the son of c Ali 
and the grandson of the Prophet, who was killed in Iraq in 680 
along with a small band of his followers. Though hardly 
momentous at the time it occurred, this event was to acquire 
profound importance in the history of Shi'ite Islam as the 
symbolic focus of Shi'ite piety and religious identity. At the 
time, however, far more serious threats to the Umayyads 
were represented by the revolt of 'Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr in 
the Hijaz, in Arabia, and by factional warfare between Arab 
tribes in Syria and Mesopotamia. In 684, with the civil war 
still in progress, Marwan ibn al-Hakam (r. 684-685) was 
elected caliph in Syria, marking the transfer of ruling author- 
ity from Mu'awiya's descendants, the Sufyanid clan (of which 
Uthman had been a member), to another clan of the Umayyad 
family. This clan, the Marwanids, was to rule as caliphs until 
the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty in 750. 

The Marwanids governed their empire through powerful 
generals appointed from the capital, Damascus, and through 
increasingly elaborate administrative departments (diwans). 
Late antique administrative structures and traditions contin- 
ued under the Umayyads even as they underwent sometimes 
rapid changes that expressed the evolving Arab and Islamic 
identity of the new empire. Around the turn of the eighth 
century, the language of the administration was itself changed 
from ancient Persian and Greek to Arabic and a new system 
of coinage, clearly asserting the Islamic identity of the new 
rulers, was instituted. This identity was expressed even more 
strikingly in monumental architecture, of which the two most 
famous extant examples are the Dome of the Rock in Jerusa- 
lem, built during the reign of the caliph 'Abd al-Malik (r. 
685-705), and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, built 
under his successor al-Walid I (r. 705-715). 

Though the Umayyads are often portrayed as worldly 
"kings" in Arabic historiography (an unfavorable image that 
owes much to the fact that early Islamic historiography is 
largely the work of those who were unfavorably disposed 
toward this dynasty), it was under their rule that Islamic 
religious, cultural, and political institutions began to take 
their distinctive shape. The caliphs, though far removed from 
the austere lifestyle of the Rashidun, were hardly the ungodly 

rulers that medieval Arab chroniclers and many modern 
scholars have often represented them to be. As Crone and 
Hinds have shown, their coins, their official pronounce- 
ments, and their panegyrists often characterized them as the 
"deputies of God," a formulation frowned on by the religious 
scholars but one that suggests something of the scope and 
seriousness of Umayyad religious claims. The caliphs are 
known to have given decisions on matters involving Islamic 
law and ritual, and some of them are featured as authorities in 
early collections of hadith. Above all, the existence of a 
powerful centralized political authority provided the crucial 
context in which the early development of Islam and of 
Muslim communal and cultural identity took place. 

Yet the growing community of Muslims also posed serious 
challenges to the Umayyads. Since the conquest of the 
Middle East, the economic well-being of the state was based 
on the principle that the non-Muslims paid the bulk of the 
taxes on the land, while the Muslims were responsible for 
only the religiously obligated taxes on their wealth. In theory, 
anyone who joined the ranks of the Muslims was entitled to 
the same concessions; in practice, a large influx of previously 
taxed non-Arabs threatened the revenues of the empire, with 
the result that the new Muslims (the mawali or "clients") 
often continued to be taxed as if they had not converted to 
Islam. The Umayyads never satisfactorily resolved the prob- 
lem of how to integrate the new non-Arab Muslims into the 
Muslim community, and they thereby created considerable 
resentment against their dynasty. This was compounded by 
the grievances of those Arabs who had given up their military 
careers and settled down in the conquered lands, but felt 
discriminated against or unfairly treated by the military 
generals and their (sometimes non-Muslim) tax-collecting 
agents. There was, moreover, increasingly destructive tribal 
factionalism within the Umayyad army that severely weak- 
ened the caliphate both through faction-based military re- 
volts and the systematic persecution of members of a faction 
each time a rival came to power. 

Shi'ite groups led a number of revolts against the Umayyads, 
as did the Kharijites, erstwhile followers of Ali who had 
separated from him when he agreed to negotiate with what 
the Kharijites regarded as Mu'awiya's iniquitous party. The 
revolt that brought the Umayyad dynasty to an end in 750 
also began as a Shi'ite movement that called, as had many 
others before it, for returning the rule back to the rightful 
descendants of the Prophet and for rule according to the 
"book of God and the sunna of His Prophet." It was not, 
however, the descendants of 'Ali but those of al- 'Abbas, an 
uncle of the Prophet, that came to power with what is often 
characterized by modern scholars as the "Abbasid revolution." 

The Abbasids. The new center of the empire was Iraq rather 
than Syria, and bureaucrats of Iranian origin were prominent 
in the Abbasid caliphate (750-1258) from its inception. The 
new empire was, like its predecessor, also an "Arab kingdom," 
and indeed there were important continuities between the 

1 1 8 

islam and the Muslim World 


Umayyad Caliphs 



Abu-Sufyan (c. 565-653; Meccan chief) 


Abu 'l-'As 




(Gov. of Syria, 639) 

2. Mu'awiya I r. 661-680 
(Gov. of Syria, 639-661) 

3. Yazid I r. 680-683 

4. MiTawiya II r. 683 



Umm-Habibah= Muhammad 
the Prophet 

(d. 632) 

Umm-Kulthum a/?dRuqayyah=1. 'Uthman r. 644-656 

5. Marwan I 

r. 683-685 (chief aide 
to 'Uthman, 644-656; 
never generally recognized 
as caliph 



6. Abd-al-Malik r. 685-705 
(generally recognized from 692) 

(Gov. of Egypt) 


7. al-Walidlr. 705-715 


8. Sulayman r. 715-717 


10. Yazid Mr. 720-724 


11.Hisham r. 724-743 

15. Marwan II 

r. 744-750 

13. Yazid III r. 744 14. Ibrahim r. 744 12. al-Walid 

'Abd-al-Rahman I 
(emir at Cordova; 
ancestor of the 
Spanish caliphs) 

Claimants to the caliphate or caliphs are set in bold type, and are sequentially numbered. 

source: Hodgson, Marshall G. S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1974. 

Geneology of the early caliphs. 

|| r . 743-744 

9. Umarll 

r. 717-720 


Umayyad and the early Abbasid caliphates. Yet, the latter was 
much more inclusive in terms of the ethnic origins of its 
soldiers and bureaucrats and much more successful in assimi- 
lating its non-Arab subjects into the Islamic empire. Its 
ideological emphases were also different from its predeces- 
sor's. Unlike the Umayyads but like the Alids, the Abbasids 
emphasized from the outset their kinship with the Prophet as 

the justification for their claims to the caliphate. This was to 
remain a major basis of their legitimist claims, though it was 
scarcely the only one. The early Abbasid caliphs also tried to 
invoke, especially in their regnal titles, the messianic expecta- 
tions rife at the time; they sought, as had the Umayyads in 
their own ways, to bolster their authority with appeals to pre- 
Islamic royal traditions and symbolism, and they presided 

islam and the Muslim World 


over elaborate circles of patronage that involved a broad 
spectrum of the cultural and religious elite of the time. 
Baghdad, founded by al-Mansur (r. 754-775) as his new 
capital, had evocative imperial symbolism inscribed in its very 
design, but it soon also became the center of culture and 
learning, and of interaction not only between various Muslim 
groups and emerging schools and sects but also between 
Muslims and non-Muslims. 

The first century of Abbasid rule was a time of extraordi- 
nary cultural and religious efflorescence, not just in Baghdad 
but also in the major provincial towns. It was during this time 
that the eponymous founders of the major schools of Sunni 
and Shi'ite law flourished. The systematic collection of the 
traditions of the Prophet, the hadith, began to take place 
during this time; some of the first extant works of hadith date 
to this period, as does the earliest major biography of the 
Prophet, the Sira of Ibn Ishaq (d. 767). Under royal patron- 
age, systematic efforts were made to translate ancient philo- 
sophical and scientific works into Arabic, and this was the age 
that saw formative developments in Islamic theology, notably 
the rise of the rationalist Mu'tazila, as well as the beginnings 
of what later emerged as Sunni and Shi'ite Islam. 

But this formative age was also a time of considerable 
political turmoil. A number of Shi'ite revolts, of which the 
most serious took place in Medina and Basra in 762, threat- 
ened Abbasid rule. The existence of the descendants of Ali, 
the Shi'ite imams, and their followers in the midst of the 
community continued to challenge Abbasid legitimacy. 
Khurasan, where the Abbasid revolt had originated, saw 
many uprisings against the caliphal state in the early decades 
after the revolution. The empire was also shaken by a destruc- 
tive civil war between two sons of Harun al-Rashid (r. 
786-809), eventuating in the murder of the incumbent caliph, 
al-Amin (r. 809-813), and the succession of his brother and 
the governor of Khurasan, al-Ma'mun (r. 813-833). This 
murder, and the widespread uncertainty and disorder that 
accompanied and followed the civil war, considerably weak- 
ened the Abbasid state, necessitating extensive effort on the 
part of the caliph to reassert his authority. This effort took 
some unusual forms. 

Unlike his Abbasid predecessors, al-Ma'mun made strong 
claims to religious authority, namely to an ability to lay down 
at least some of what his subjects must believe. Toward the 
end of his reign, he instituted the mihna, an inquisition to 
enforce conformity to the theological doctrine that the Qur'an 
ought to be regarded as the "created" word of God. Irrespec- 
tive of the provenance of this idea or its theological merit, it 
allowed the caliph to assert his own authority as the arbiter of 
the community's religious life. The inquisition was appar- 
ently intended not only to extend the scope of caliphal 
authority but also to humble many of those scholars of hadith 
and law whose growing influence in society the caliph re- 
sented and who consequently were among the principle 

victims of the mihna. But al-Ma'mun died shortly after the 
inquisition began, and though it continued in effect under 
two of his immediate successors, it did more, in the long run, 
to define the "uncreatedness" of the Qur'an as a Sunni creed 
and to solidify the ranks of the early Sunni scholars than it did 
to enhance the caliph's religious authority. Later caliphs were 
usually happier to align themselves with the Sunni religious 
scholars in asserting their own roles in the community's 
religious life than they were in confronting or challeng- 
ing them. 

Toward the end of the first century of Abbasid rule, the 
caliph was still in control of large parts of his realm, but his 
empire was not as extensive as it had been at the beginning of 
the dynasty, and it was rapidly shrinking. Some of the prov- 
inces were already becoming independent in all but name, 
and at the heart of the empire, the caliph had to cope with the 
increasing power of a new military force, Turkish "slave 
soldiers" drawn from the lands of the Central Asian steppe, a 
force that in later decades contributed substantially to the 
political and economic weakness of the Abbasid state. This 
pattern of a shrinking state and the caliph's increasing de- 
pendence on military generals was to continue for much of 
subsequent Abbasid history. From the middle of the tenth 
century, the caliphs came under the sway of ruling families 
that controlled the Abbasid realm, and often the person of the 
caliph himself, in all but name. The Buyids, a family of Shi'ite 
military adventurers from Iran, ruled what was left of the 
Abbasid caliphate from the middle of the tenth to the middle 
of the eleventh century. They were supplanted by the staunchly 
Sunni Turkish Seljuks, who then oversaw the Abbasid caliphs 
until toward the end of the twelfth century. Even as the 
caliphate declined in effective political power, and for all the 
humiliations that individual caliphs were meted out at the 
hands of the warlords, the symbolic significance of the caliphal 
institution grew during these centuries. The Shi'ite Buyids 
not only maintained the caliphate but sought also to legiti- 
mize their own rule by seeking formal recognition from the 
caliphs. The Seljuk sultans and their wazirs were often far 
more powerful than the caliph or his officials, but they too 
continued to be formally subservient to the caliph. 

Not all caliphs during this period were equally helpless, 
however. At times of political transition, when the warlords 
were weak, and depending on the personal abilities and 
initiative of individual caliphs, the latter could exercise a 
prominent role in the political and religious life of the realm. 
Notable among such caliphs were al-Qadir (r. 991-103 1) and 
al-Qa'im (r. 103 1-1075) in the Buyid period, and al-Nasir (r. 
1180-1225), who reigned at a time when the Seljuk power 
had waned and who utilized his ties with Sufi and chivalric 
(futuwwd) groups, which he reorganized with himself at their 
head, to reassert his authority during a remarkably ambitious 
reign. But such revivals were sporadic and they did not do 
very much to seriously stem the effects of the long decline the 

1 20 

islam and the Muslim World 


caliphate had already undergone. In the middle of the thir- 
teenth century, the caliphate of Baghdad was terminated 
altogether at the hands of the Mongols, whose ravages in- 
cluded the destruction of large parts of the eastern Islamic 
world. The caliphate was revived — and the Mongol tide 
finally stemmed — by the Mamluks of Syria and Egypt, but 
the Abbasid caliphs of the Mamluk era never had the prestige 
or the symbolic capital possessed by many of their predeces- 
sors in Baghdad. The Mamluk era and, with it, the shadow 
Abbasid caliphate ended with the Ottoman conquest of 
Egypt in 1517. 

Ideological Challenges to the Caliphate 

From the time of its inception, the caliphate faced challenges 
of varying degrees of gravity to its existence. Many of these 
challenges were political. Civil wars resulted in some of the 
major shifts in the caliphal office: the end of the Rashidun era 
and the emergence of the Umayyads; the transfer of the 
caliphate from the Sufyanids to the Marwanids; the Abbasid 
revolution; and the war between al-Amin and al-Ma 5 mun. 
There was secession of territories that had once been part of 
the caliphate, internal rebellions and warfare with external 
foes, and, eventually, the loss of effective caliphal control of 
the heartland of the empire itself and, indeed, even of the 
caliphs's own freedom of action. Some of the challenges to 
the caliphate were also ideological, in that they denied the 
legitimacy of those who occupied this office or contested the 
basic assumptions on which the Sunni institution of the 
caliphate was predicated. The Kharijites, for all the antago- 
nism within their ranks, denied the legitimacy not only of 
'Uthman's later years but also that of most of his successors. 
Their position that a ruler who was guilty of a grave sin ought 
to be deposed brought them into frequent and bloody conflict 
with the government. Indeed all but the most moderate of the 
Kharijites were eventually eliminated, but not before they 
had forcefully raised the question of what constituted a 
legitimate ruler, under what circumstances must an unjust 
and sinful ruler be deposed, and what were the terms of 
membership in the community of Muslims. As Crone has 
shown, some of the Kharijites as well as certain Mu'tazili 
theologians were not convinced that the position of a caliph 
was necessary at all, though this view did not attract much 
support from the Muslim community. 

If the history of the caliphate is viewed from the perspec- 
tive of the majoritarian Sunnis rather than from that of the 
Shi'a, then the latter must be seen as representing a more 
durable challenge to the legitimacy of the caliphate than had 
even the Kharijites. Divided into many different sects, the 
Shi'a agreed that the headship of the Muslim community 
belonged properly to a member of the "people of the house" 
{ahl al-bayt). What this phrase connoted was a matter of some 
uncertainty in early Islam, though the term came to be 
generally understood to refer to the family of the Prophet. As 

such the Abbasids, too, could and did claim to be the ahl al- 
bayt, and indeed their revolutionary propaganda had de- 
manded the installation as caliph of the "acceptable one (al- 
rida) from the family of Muhammad." The descendants of 
Ali, however, denied that any but their own number was 
properly entitled to the caliphate, though there were sharp 
disagreements among them on the precise qualifications of 
the person who was to be the political-religious head of the 
community — the imam. Since the time of their sixth imam, 
Ja'far al-Sadiq (d. 765), the Imami Shi'a had found it prudent 
to hold largely quietist political views: The imam did not have 
to show his entitlement to this position by actually taking up 
arms against the iniquitous order, as certain other Shi'ias 
thought he must. This meant that, despite tensions, the 
Imamis could continue to live in peace under the caliphs. But 
the Isma'ili Shi'a, differing with the Imamis on the identity of 
those of Ja'far's descendants who were to be recognized as 
imams, thought and acted differendy. A state established by 
the Qarmati Isma'ilis in northeastern Arabia gave much grief 
to the Abbasids during the tenth century. In the early tenth 
century, a stronger and more ambitious Isma'ili state, the 
caliphate of the Fatimids, was established in Ifriqiyya (modern- 
day Tunisia) from where it moved, in 969, to Egypt. 

The Fatimids saw themselves as Isma'ili imams as well as 
caliphs, demanding absolute authority over their followers 
and challenging, with considerable might and a splendor to 
match, the legitimist claims of all other rival states and rulers. 
The pressure of these claims was felt widely, and not just by 
the Abbasids. Thus it was in response to them, and not 
primarily as an affront to the Abbasids, that the Umayyads 
who had been ruling Spain ever since the fall of the Umayyad 
caliphate in Damascus, began to also style themselves as 
caliphs in the tenth century. The Abbasids, however, outlived 
both of these claimants to the caliphate. And while the 
Fatimid caliphate was in existence, the Shi'ite Buyids of Iraq 
were happier to pay nominal allegiance to the Sunni Abbasids 
than they were to the Fatimids, and even the Qarmati Isma'ilis 
remained opposed to the latter. As for the population of 
Egypt, most people preferred to remain Sunnis, and it was to 
the Sunni Abbasid caliphate that the celebrated Saladin 
looked when he terminated Fatimid rule in 1171. 

The Caliphate in Constitutional Theory 

Detailed formulations of Sunni public law are the product of 
times when the caliphate had largely ceased to be an effective 
political institution. The most influential of these, the Ahkam 
al-sultaniyya of the Shafi'i jurist al-Mawardi (d. 1058), was 
written in the later Buyid period, when the caliphs had for 
decades lived in often humiliating circumstances under the 
tutelage of their military overlords. Even so, the caliph 
occupies the center of al-Mawardi's exposition, with all pow- 
ers of appointment and dismissal concentrated in his person, 
to be "delegated" to others as needed. The principal func- 
tions of the caliph, as al-Mawardi saw them, were: the 

islam and the Muslim World 



preservation of religion according to its agreed-upon princi- 
ples; implementation of the law, preservation of order, and 
the security of the realm against internal and external threats; 
undertaking jihad; the collection of the taxes as required by 
the sacred law, the shari'a, and the proper disbursement and 
use of the revenues; and the appointment of the appropriate 
officials for discharging the various functions of the state; and 
close personal supervision of public affairs. Al-Mawardi's 
formulations were plainly idealistic; indeed, some of them 
would have been so even when the Abbasids presided over a 
large and powerful empire. Yet, in a milieu of political 
decline, they served important functions. They were simulta- 
neously a way of protesting against the existing circum- 
stances, through a rearticulation of caliphal privileges and his 
centrality to the life of the community, and a means of 
bringing juristic theory into some accord with changing 
circumstances. As for the former, it is noteworthy that the 
caliph al-Qadir, under whom al-Mawardi wrote his treatise, 
had himself made efforts to reassert some of his authority 
against the later Buyids and, as Gibb has suggested ("Al- 
Mawardi's Theory"), this treatise may have been part of the 
same effort. But, the jurist also made important concessions 
to changing times: The person elevated to the caliphate 
ought to be the "best" of all those available, yet one who was 
not such could validly occupy the position; the caliph could 
hold his position even with his powers severely limited by a 
military usurper, provided the latter continued to abide by 
the shari'a; and independent rulers of outlying provinces 
could be recognized as legitimate and indeed integrated into 
the caliphal system if they formally submitted to the caliph 
and did not contravene the shari'a. 

Jurists like al-Mawardi sought to tread a difficult path 
between trying to formalize and legitimize the status quo, to 
adapt the shari'a itself to the changing circumstances, and to 
encourage the existing authorities to conform in some man- 
ner to the shari'a. Later jurists went much beyond al-Mawardi 
in their concessions to realpolitik. For instance, al-Ghazali (d. 
1111) argued that the interests of the community dictated 
that any military usurper be deemed legitimate, for the effort 
to remove him would inevitably result in political chaos and 
bloodshed; indeed, whoever was recognized as caliph by the 
military ruler was to be accepted as a legitimate caliph. Such 
juristic formulations meant the recognition of a reality the 
jurists (or the caliphs, for that matter) were powerless to 
change. They also signified efforts to safeguard the historical 
continuity of the Muslim community. To concede that the 
constituted political authority was (and for centuries past had 
been) illegitimate would have meant that the overall political 
framework in which the community lived was fundamentally 
illegitimate, and, unlike the Shi c a, the Sunni scholars were not 
willing to go so far. Yet, as Khaled Abou El Fadl has shown, if 
they acknowledged the legitimacy of the existing order and 
had a stake in its preservation, many Sunni jurists did not 
necessarily close all doors to the possibility of rebellion 
against unjust rale. Leaving such a possibility open may not 

have had much practical efficacy, though it did serve as a 
pointed reminder of the jurists' view that a ruler was legiti- 
mate only insofar as he did not flagrantly contravene the basic 
norms of justice and of the shari'a — that is, as long as he 
allowed the continuance of a world in which the scholars 
could do their work of providing practical religious guidance 
to the community. For the most part, however, Sunni politi- 
cal thought had made its peace with the political realities long 
before the extinction of the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad. 
The resurrected Abbasid caliphate of Cairo did not receive 
much attention from later scholars. Rather, jurists like Ibn 
Taymiyya (d. 1328) ignored the institution altogether, focus- 
ing instead on the implementation of the shari'a by the 
ruler — whoever he might be — in collaboration with the relig- 
ious scholars. 

Historic and Symbolic Significance of the Caliphate 

The fundamental importance of the caliphate, irrespective of 
the actual conduct of individual caliphs or the political for- 
tunes of the institution, lies in what it symbolizes of the 
classical history of Islam and of the Muslim community. The 
early caliphate was not only the force behind the military 
expansion of the Arab Muslims immediately after the death of 
Muhammad, it was also the institution that kept the Muslims 
together as a religious and political entity. For all the ad- 
verse views that abound about the Umayyads in Arabic 
historiography, it was through their caliphate that the politi- 
cal survival of the Muslim community was assured. And it was 
in the framework of the caliphal state, under the Umayyads 
and then under the Abbasids, that the religious and cultural 
institutions of Islam evolved. The formation of Islam, its 
intellectual life, and culture in the first centuries, is, in short, 
not merely intertwined with but inconceivable without the 

Even as it declined, the caliphate continued to represent 
the historical continuity of the Muslim community. It also 
represented the ideal of the shari'a's supremacy in the collec- 
tive life of the community. The symbolic weight of the 
caliphal institution continued to be felt, as long as the caliphate 
lasted, in the investitures sought by many of the rulers who 
were independent of the caliphate in all but name. This 
symbolic power could be revived even long after the institu- 
tion associated with it had become extinct. For much of their 
history, the Ottoman sultans had not claimed to be "caliphs," 
yet even they began to do so from the late eighteenth century. 
This was largely meant to assert Ottoman authority over 
those who lived in territories now lost to the sultan, and 
thereby also to bolster his weakening standing vis-a-vis the 
European powers of the time. Such claims on the part of the 
sultans had resonance in several Muslim societies, especially 
as the latter came under colonial rale and began more 
anxiously to look for a visible symbol of the worldwide 
Muslim community. This sentiment found its most powerful 
expression in India, where what was in fact the Indian subcon- 
tinent's very first mass-movement of the colonial period was 


islam and the Muslim World 


launched in defense of the Ottoman caliphate at the end of 
the First World War — a movement that came to an end only 
with the formal termination of the Ottoman caliphate by 
Republican Turkey in 1924. That was not the end of the 
symbolic significance of the caliphate, however. For it was in 
the debates surrounding the dissolution of the Ottoman 
caliphate that some of the first modern discussions on the 
"Islamic state" were to find their point of departure in the 
twentieth century. 

See also Empires: Abbasid; Empires: Ottoman; Empires: 
Umayyad; Kharijites, Khawarij; Monarchy. 


Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 

Azmeh, Aziz al-. Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in 
Muslim, Christian, and Pagan Polities. London: I. B. 
Tauris, 1997. 

Crone, Patricia. "Ninth-century Muslim Anarchists." Past 
and Present 167 (2000): 3-28. 

Crone, Patricia. Slaves on Horses. Cambridge, U.K.: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1980. 

Crone, Patricia, and Hinds, Martin. God's Caliph: Religious 
Authority in the First Centuries of Islam. Cambridge, U.K.: 
Cambridge University Press, 1986. 

Gibb, H. A. R. "Al-Mawardi's Theory of the Caliphate." In 
his Studies on the Civilization of Islam. London: Routledge 
and Kegan Paul, 1962. 

Gibb, H. A. R. "Some Considerations on the Sunni Theory 
of the Caliphate." In his Studies on the Civilization of Islam. 
London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962. 

Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam. 2d ed. London: 
Routledge, 2000. 

Hibri, Tayeb E1-. Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun 
al-Rashid and the Narrative of the 'Abbasid Caliphate. Cam- 
bridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 

Hodgson, Marshall G. S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and 
History in a World Civilization. Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1974. 

Kennedy, Hugh. The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates. 
London: Longman, 1986. 

Lambton, A. K. S. State and Government in Medieval Islam. 
Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1981. 

Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of 
the Early Caliphate. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1997. 

Mawardi, A1-. The Ordinances of Government. Translated by 
W. H. Wahba. Reading, U.K.: Garnet Publishing, 1996. 

Qadi, Wadad al-. "The Term 'Khalifa' in Early Exegetical 
Literature." Die Welt des Islams 28 (1988): 392-411. 

Safran, Janina M. The Second Umayyad Caliphate: The Articu- 
lation of Caliphal Legitimacy in al-Andalus. Cambridge, 
Mass.: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard Uni- 
versity, 2000. 

Sanders, Paula. Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo. 
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. 

Tabari, A1-. The History of Al-Tabari. Albany: State University 
of New York Press, 1985-1999. 

Tyan, Emile. Institutions du droit public musulman, Vol. 1: Le 
califat. Paris: R. Sirey, 1954. 

Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. Religion and Politics under the 
Early 'Abbasids. Leiden: Brill, 1997. 

Muhammad Qasim Zaman 


Muslims have always deemed calligraphy, the art of beautiful 
writing, the noblest of the arts. The first chapters of the 
Qur'an revealed to the prophet Muhammad in the early 
seventh century (suras 96 and 68) mention the pen and 
writing. Writing in Arabic script soon became a hallmark of 
Islamic civilization, found on everything from buildings and 
coins to textiles and ceramics, and scribes and calligraphers 
became the most honored type of artist. We know the names, 
and even the biographies, of more calligraphers than any 
other type of artist. Probably because of the intrinsic link 
between writing and the revelation, Islamic calligraphy is 
meant to convey an aura of effortlessness and immutability, 
and the individual hand and personality are sublimated to 
the overall impression of stateliness and grandeur. In this 
way Islamic calligraphy differs markedly from other great 
calligraphic traditions, notably the Chinese, in which the 
written text is meant to impart the personality of the calligra- 
pher and recall the moment of its creation. Islamic calligra- 
phy, by contrast, is timeless. 

The reed pen (qalam) was the writing implement par 
excellence in Islamic civilization. The brush, used for callig- 
raphy in China and Japan, was reserved for painting in the 
Islamic lands. In earliest times Muslim calligraphers penned 
their works on parchment, generally made from the skins of 
sheep and goats, but from the eighth century parchment was 
gradually replaced by the cheaper and more flexible support 
of paper. From the fourteenth century virtually all calligra- 
phy in the Muslim lands was written on paper. Papermakers 
developed elaborately decorated papers to complement the 
fine calligraphy, and the colored, marbled, and gold-sprinkled 
papers used by calligraphers in later periods are some of the 
finest ever made. 

Almost all Islamic calligraphy is written in Arabic script. 
The Qur'an was revealed in that language, and the sanctity of 
the revelation meant that the script was adopted for many 
other languages, such as new Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and 
Urdu. Unlike many other scripts that have at least two 
distinct forms of writing — a monumental or printed form in 
which the letters are written separately and a cursive or 
handwritten form in which they are connected — Arabic has 

islam and the Muslim World 



Alphabet A red) 




t uplu que 







\ \ 


f 1 






, 0 


-it j> 















6 cl ill jOj 



— ~i 


— c 

' / ' 



L c 










^ i> 




\ V v v 

v * 

V V 

/O > 


S X s 



v ~ v 

V w 

sT J 3 






V / V 


J 1 J 








J * i 

J J X J 



1 s 














C L. 



f r 




c .<? 

L, C 




i « * a 

V ■ v — y \ " 



r r ) 



V. r 

? <_? 


,tU viv Ul 





S V ^ 

— Is jL J 



J J J J 


^ ; J 


i 41 

s _L J 



r r 



A A 







b ^4. 

V /J 


1=3. J=3 




^ J <S 



3 | 


■i -i 

J- a 


The Arabic alphabet. Arabic calligraphy is done with a qa/am, a type of reed pen, rather than with a brush as in East 
Asia. Islam's reverence for the written word contributes to calligraphy's status as the religion's most honorable art 
form. © Historical Picture Archive/Corbis 

1 24 

islam and the Muslim World 


only the cursive form, in which some, but not all, letters are 
connected and assume different forms depending on their 
position in the word (initial, medial, final, and independent). 

The cursive nature of Arabic script allowed calligraphers 
to develop many different styles of writing, which are usually 
grouped under two main headings: rectilinear and rounded. 
Since the eighteenth century, scholars have often called the 
rectilinear styles "Kufic," after the city of Kufa in southern 
Iraq, which was an intellectual center in early Islamic times. 
This name is something of a misnomer, for as yet we have no 
idea which particular rectilinear style this name denoted. 
Scholars have proposed various other names to replace kufic, 
including Old or Early Abbasid style, but these names are not 
universally accepted, in part because they carry implicit 
political meanings, and many scholars continue to use the 
term kufic. 

Similarly, scholars often called the rounded styles naskh, 
from the verb nasakha (to copy). The naskh script is indeed the 
most common hand used for transcription and the one upon 
which modern styles of typography are based, but the name is 
also something of a misnomer, for it refers to only one of a 
group of six rounded hands that became prominent in later 
Islamic times. As with kufic, scholars have proposed several 
other names to replace naskh, such as new style (often abbre- 
viated N.S.), or new Abbasid style, but these names, too, are 
not universally accepted. 

Medieval sources mention the names of many other 
calligraphic hands, but so far it has been difficult, even 
impossible, to match many of these names with distinct styles 
of script. Very few sources describe the characteristics of a 
particular style or give illustrations of particular scripts. 
Furthermore, the same names may have been applied to 
different styles in different places and at different times. 
Hence it may never be possible to link the names of specific 
scripts given in the sources with the many, often fragmentary, 
manuscripts at hand, especially from the early period. 

Both the rectilinear and the rounded styles were used for 
writing from early Islamic times, but in the early period the 
rounded style seems to have been a book hand used for 
ordinary correspondence, while the rectilinear style was re- 
served for calligraphy. Although no examples of early callig- 
raphy on parchment can be definitively dated before the late 
ninth century, the importance of the rectilinear style in early 
Islamic times is clear from other media with inscriptions, such 
as coins, architecture, and monumental epigraphy. The Fihrist 
by Ibn al-Nadim (d. 995) records the names of calligraphers 
who worked in the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, and both 
coins and the inscriptions on the first example of Islamic 
architecture, the Dome of the Rock erected in Jerusalem by 
the Umayyad caliph c Abd al-Malik in 692, show that from 
earliest times Umayyad calligraphers applied such aesthetic 
principles as balance, symmetry, elongation, and stylization 
to transform ordinary writing into calligraphy. 

Calligraphers in early Islamic times regularly used the 
rectilinear styles to transcribe manuscripts of the Qur'an. 
Indeed, the rectilinear styles might be deemed Qur'anic 
hands, for we know only one other manuscript — an unidenti- 
fied genealogical text in Berlin (Staatsbibliotheque no. 379) — 
written in a rectilinear script. None of these early manu- 
scripts of the Qur'an is signed or dated, and most survive only 
in fragmentary form, and so scholars are still refining other 
methods, both paleographic and codicological, to group and 
localize the scripts used in these early parchment manuscripts 
of the Qur'an. 

The major change in later Islamic times was the gradual 
adoption and adaptation of round hands for calligraphy. 
From the ninth century calligraphers transformed the round 
hands into artistic scripts suitable for transcribing the Qur'an 
and other prestigious texts. The earliest surviving copy of the 
Qur'an written in a rounded hand is a small manuscript, now 
dispersed but with the largest section preserved in the Ches- 
ter Beatty Library in Dublin (ms. 1417). It bears a note in 
Persian saying that the manuscript was corrected by a certain 
Ahmad ibn c Ali ibn Abu '1-Qasm al-Khayqani in June 905, 
and it is tacitly accepted that the rounded hand was developed 
in Iran or nearby Iraq, heartland of the Abbasid caliphate. In 
the ensuing centuries calligraphers continued to develop and 
elaborate the rounded style, and from the fourteenth century 
virtually all manuscripts of the Qur'an were written in one of 
the six round scripts known as the Six Pens (Arabic, al-aqlam 
al-sitta; Persian, shish qalarri). These comprise three pairs of 
majuscule-miniscule hands, thuluth -naskh, muhaqqaq-rayhan, 
and tawqi' -riqa' : , and calligraphers delighted in juxtaposing 
the different scripts, particularly the larger and smaller vari- 
ants of the same pair. 

Various explanations have been proposed for this trans- 
formation of rounded book hands into proportioned scripts 
suitable for calligraphing fine manuscripts. These explana- 
tions range from the political (e.g., the spread of orthodox 
Sunni Islam) to the sociohistorical (e.g., the new role of the 
chancery scribe as copyist and calligrapher), but perhaps the 
most convincing are the practical. The change from rectilin- 
ear to rounded script coincided with the change from parch- 
ment to paper, and the new style of writing might well be 
connected with a new type of reed pen, a new method of 
sharpening the nib, or a new way that the pen was held, placed 
on the page, or moved across it. In the same way, the adoption 
of paper engendered the adoption of a new type of black soot 
ink imidad) that replaced the dark brown, tannin-based ink 
(hibr) used on parchment. 

From the fourteenth century calligraphers, especially those 
in the eastern Islamic lands, developed more stylized forms of 
rounded script. The most distinctive is the hanging script 
known as nasta c liq, which was particularly suitable for tran- 
scribing Persian, in which many words end in letters with 

islam and the Muslim World 



large bowls, such as ya' or ta\ Persian calligraphers com- 
monly used nasta'liq to pen poetic texts, in which the rounded 
bowls at the end of each hemistich form a visual chain down 
the right side of the columns on a page. They also used 
nastaHiq to pen poetic specimens (qifa). These elaborately 
planned calligraphic compositions typically contain a Persian 
quatrain written in colored and gold-dusted inks on fine, 
brightly colored and highly polished paper and set in elabo- 
rately decorated borders. The swooping strokes of the letters 
and bowls provide internal rhythm and give structure to the 
composition. In contrast to the anonymous works of the early 
period, these calligraphic specimens are frequently signed 
and dated, and connoisseurs vied to assemble fine collections, 
which were often mounted in splendid albums. 

Calligraphy continues to be an important art form in 
modern times, despite the adoption of the Latin alphabet in 
some countries such as Turkey. Some calligraphers are trying 
to revive the traditional styles, notably the Six Pens, and 
investigate and rediscover traditional techniques and materi- 
als. Societies teaching calligraphy flourish. The Anjuman-e 
Khushnvisan-e Iran (Society of Iranian Calligraphers), for 
example, has branches in all the main cities of the country, 
with thousands of students. Other artists are extending the 
calligraphic tradition to new media, adopting calligraphy in 
new forms, ranging from three-dimensional sculpture to oil 
painting on canvas. More than any other civilization, Islam 
values the written word. 

See also Arabic Language; Arabic Literature; Art. 

Bloom, Jonathan M. Paper Before Print: The History and Impact 
of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven, Conn., and 
London: Yale University Press, 2001. 

Khatibi, Abdelkebir, and Sijelmassi, Mohammed. The Splendour 
of Islamic Calligraphy. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. 

Lings, Martin. The Qufanic Art of Calligraphy and Illumina- 
tion. London: World of Islam Festival Trust, 1976. 

Safadi, Y. H. Islamic Calligraphy. Boulder, Colo.: 
Shambala, 1979. 

Schimmel, Annemarie. Islamic Calligraphy. Leiden: E. J. 
Brill, 1970. 

Schimmel, Annemarie. Calligraphy and Islamic Culture. New 
York: New York University Press, 1984. 

Sheila S. Blair 
Jonathan M. Bloom 


Among the claims of the contemporary literature known as 
"Islamic economics" is that Islamic law provides an economic 

system conducive to free exchange. Where this system alleg- 
edly differs from capitalism, which also promotes economic 
freedoms, is that it avoids sharp inequalities, chronic corrup- 
tion, and mass exploitation. If Muslims restructure their 
economic relations according to Islamic stipulations, say the 
proponents of Islamic economics, they can obtain all the 
benefits of capitalism without incurring its costs. Specifically, 
they can achieve prosperity, steady innovation, and material 
security — all traits associated with today's advanced market 
economies — within a framework based on honesty and broth- 
erly cooperation. 

If this logic resonates with many Muslims, the reason is 
that the current economic performance of the Islamic world 
is generally disappointing. The predominantly Muslim coun- 
tries included in the annual "Corruption Index" of Transpar- 
ency International all rank as substantially "more corrupt" 
than the typical advanced economy. Except for the small oil- 
exporting countries of the Arabian peninsula, not a single 
Muslim-governed state is among the world's wealthiest coun- 
tries, and many Muslim countries are impoverished. The 
Islamic world's participation in world trade is low in relation 
to its share of global population. Although the basic eco- 
nomic institutions of the Islamic world are formally similar to 
those of the successful market economies, there is a consensus 
that they do not perform as well. 

Like many secular critics of capitalism, Islamists attribute 
this situation to Western imperialism. Starting in the eight- 
eenth century, they argue, European traders and financiers, 
along with the states that supported them, destroyed local 
crafts, monopolized natural resources, secularized the judi- 
cial system, and gradually took over key aspects of economic 
governance. They also lowered the Islamic world's standards 
of honesty and weakened its ethic of brotherly cooperation. 

Institutional Sources of Underdevelopment 

In fact, European imperialism was a result, rather than the 
leading cause, of the Islamic world's economic shortcomings. 
Prior to embarking on the global colonization drive whose 
results included the economic subjugation of the world's 
Muslim peoples, the West underwent a sustained institu- 
tional transformation that gave rise to modern capitalism. 
During this transformation, which began around the elev- 
enth century, the institutions of the Islamic world also experi- 
enced changes, but these were relatively minor. As late as the 
nineteenth century, the contractual forms recognized by the 
Islamic court system were essentially those developed a mil- 
lennium earlier. The concept of a juridical person had no 
place in Islamic law. Nor did Islamic law recognize joint- 
stock companies or corporations. Although money lending 
remained a flourishing profession among both Muslims and 
non-Muslims, there were no banks. For these reasons, among 
others, the Islamic world's economic system was now ineffi- 
cient in relation to the emerging capitalist system of the 


islam and the Muslim World 


West. It is this handicap that subjected the Middle East and 
the rest of the Islamic world to Western economic domination. 

As this domination was taking shape, the Islamic world 
experienced no general economic decline in the absolute 
sense. But it started showing clear signs of underdevelopment, 
as measured by the living standards, productivity levels, and 
institutional dynamism prevailing in the West. 

In early stages of the West's economic ascent, the Islamic 
world's market institutions were at least as efficient as their 
Western counterparts, and in some respects more so. Its 
partnership laws, which were codified by jurists generally 
familiar with the needs of merchants and investors, gave 
traders a remarkable array of contractual options. Although 
interest was formally banned, financiers easily circumvented 
the prohibition, which, in any case, was often interpreted 
loosely, as disallowing only exploitative interest charges. 
Disputes between partners, and between buyers and sellers, 
were setded informally through arbitration or formally through 
the Islamic courts, whose jurisdiction covered all economic 
transactions. A wide range of social service organizations, 
including schools, charities, commercial centers, and rest 
stops for caravans, were established in a decentralized manner 
through waqf, or Islamic trusts. The typical waqf also served 
as a wealth shelter, for its assets were relatively safe from 
confiscation and its founder could shower himself, his rela- 
tives, and even his descendants with material benefits. To a 
degree, the privileges enjoyed by waqf founders compensated 
for the chronic weakness of private property rights. For 
several centuries — estimates of the end point range from the 
fourteenth century to the eighteenth century — this system 
afforded the Islamic world a standard of living that was equal, 
if not superior, to that of Europe. 

The Rise of Modern Capitalism 

Meanwhile, the West underwent the momentous structural 
transformation that resulted in capitalism. This transforma- 
tion included the strengthening of individual property rights, 
the recognition of juridical persons in a growing number of 
sectors, and a sustained broadening of the menu of contrac- 
tual forms available to investors, traders, workers, and con- 
sumers. By the eighteenth century, and unmistakably by the 
nineteenth, the relative sophistication of Europe's economic 
institutions allowed its financiers and merchants to dominate 
economies all across the globe. The main reason why the 
Islamic world fell into a state of underdevelopment is that 
changes taking place outside the Islamic world had the effect 
of reducing the efficiency of pre-capitalist economic institu- 
tions based on Islamic law. 

Why Islamic law itself failed to generate the basic institu- 
tions of capitalism has long been a matter of controversy. One 
thing is certain. The explanation is not, as nineteenth- and 
early-twentieth-century thinkers were inclined to believe, 
that Islam is inherently hostile to commerce or prosperity. 
The classical sources of Islam are replete with provisions 

designed to facilitate exchange and production. Nor can the 
lag be attributed to policies aimed at retarding growth. The 
Islamic world's structural transformation was delayed be- 
cause certain institutions well suited to the economic condi- 
tions of classical Islam produced unintended consequences. 

Unintended Consequences 

One of these institutions was the Islamic inheritance system. 
Outlined in the Qur'an, the Islamic inheritance system re- 
quires two-thirds of a person's estate to be apportioned 
among members of his or her extended family according to 
criteria dependent on the composition of the possibly numer- 
ous heirs and their relationships to the deceased. Prior to the 
modern era, this system raised the cost of keeping productive 
enterprises intact across generations. Equally important, be- 
cause the death of even one partner resulted in termination of 
the enterprise, and in the dissolution of its assets, the prevail- 
ing inheritance rules created incentives for keeping partner- 
ships small and ephemeral. Consequently, the growing 
complexity that characterized the productive, financial, and 
commercial enterprises of Europeans was not observed in 
territories under Islamic law. By contrast, the relative flexibil- 
ity of European inheritance regimes allowed practices de- 
signed to keep estates intact, such as primogeniture. These 
practices facilitated the establishment of larger and longer- 
lasting enterprises, which then stimulated the development of 
increasingly sophisticated accounting systems, specialized 
markets, and contractual forms in order to minimize operat- 
ing costs. 

Until the Western-inspired economic reforms of the 
nineteenth century, Islamic civilization offered no corporate 
structures capable of serving as prototypes for durable finan- 
cial or mercantile organizations. The one major Islamic 
institution that some consider an exception is the waqf. 
Established to provide a service in perpetuity, a waqf, like a 
corporation, was meant to outlive its founder and employees. 
Nevertheless, it lacked most of the freedoms associated with 
corporate status. Most significant, it was supposed to refrain 
from remaking its internal rules and modifying its objectives. 
Still another unintended effect of the waqf system was that, by 
enhancing material security, it dampened incentives for seek- 
ing stronger property rights. Economic historians generally 
believe that in the West the strengthening of individual 
property rights played a critical role in the rise of modern 

By the nineteenth century, it was clear that the traditional 
economic institutions of the Islamic world had become a 
liability. The institutional borrowings that followed included 
new forms of organization, including complex partnerships, 
joint-stock companies, and corporations. Another historical 
break that occurred at this time was the establishment of 
various secular courts to adjudicate commercial and financial 
disputes involving contractual forms alien to traditional Is- 
lamic law. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Cartography and Geography 

In January, 1998, this Indonesian money changer was busy 
working the phones after a day of panic buying at supermarkets 
that left the Indonesian rupiah volatile and led the United States 
and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to send top officials to 
the country in an attempt to salvage a bailout effort. With the 
exception of a few oil-rich countries in the Middle East, no Muslim 
country is among the world's wealthiest. The lingering effects of 
the transition from an older, Islamic economic order to Western 
capitalism has left many Muslim countries in poverty and has led 
some Islamists to blame the West for their countries' suffering and 
social turmoil. AP/Wide World Photos 

Weberian Thesis 

The foregoing institutional explanation for the under- 
development of the Middle East calls into question its most 
celebrated alternative: the Weberian thesis, which traces the 
origins of capitalism to the ideological creativity of the 
Protestant Reformation. Weber's argument was challenged 
by R. H. Tawney, who showed that capitalist institutions 
preceded, even created, what Weber called the capitalist 
spirit. Tawney's observation suggests that where capitalist 
institutions failed to evolve through locally driven processes, 
as in the Islamic Middle East, vigorous and successful 
entrepreneurship would be limited. 

At the time that Weber wrote, bilateral trade between the 
Islamic world and western Europe was almost entirely under 
the control of Europeans, who provided much of the requisite 
financing, know-how, and transportation. It thus seemed that 
the Middle East lacked the entrepreneurship essential to 

modern capitalism. In fact, the infrastructure of capitalism 
was inadequate, and Middle Easterners, being latecomers to 
operating under modern economic institutions, lacked basic 
experiences and resources. Significantly, it was during the 
twilight of the traditional Islamic economic order and the 
transition to modern capitalism — the eighteenth century to 
the early twentieth century — that the Christians and Jews of 
the region by and large gained economic ground against its 
Muslims. Entitled since the early days of Islam to choice of 
law, which they had sometimes exercised in favor of indige- 
nous non-Muslim contractual forms, the Christian and Jew- 
ish religious minorities began using modern contractual 
forms about a century before Muslims were able to do so. 
Equally important, many operated under the protection of 
European-operated courts, as opposed to local Islamic courts. 

See also Communism; Economy and Economic Institu- 
tions; Globalization. 


Cizakca, Murat. A Comparative Evolution of Business Partner- 
ships: The Islamic World and Europe, with Special Reference to 
the Ottoman Archives. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996. 

Ibrahim, Mahmood. Merchant Capital and Islam,. Austin: Uni- 
versity of Texas Press, 1990. 

Issawi, Charles. "The Entrepreneurial Class." In The Arab 
World's Legacy. By Charles Issawi. Princeton, N.J.: Darwin 
Press, 1981. 

Kuran, Timur. "Islam and Underdevelopment: An Old Puz- 
zle Revisited. "Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Econo- 
mics \5i (1997): 41-71. 

Kuran, Timur. "The Provision of Public Goods under Islamic 
Law: Origins, Impact, and Limitations of the Waqf Sys- 
tem." Law and Society Review 35 (2001): 841-897. 

Rodinson, Maxime. Islam and Capitalism. Translated by Brian 
Pearce (1966). Reprint, New York: Pantheon, 1973. 

Timur Kuran 


There exist hundreds — if not thousands — of cartographic 
images of the world and various regions scattered throughout 
the medieval and early modern Arabic, Persian, and Turkish 
manuscript collections, worldwide. Yet most of these maps 
have lain virtually untouched and have often been deliber- 
ately ignored on the grounds that they were not accurate 
representations of the world. What many failed to see is that 
these schematic, geometric, and often perfectly symmetrical 
images of the world are iconographic representations of the 
way in which the medieval Muslims perceived it. Granted, 
these were stylized visions restricted to the literati — the 

1 28 

islam and the Muslim World 

Cartography and Geography 

readers, collectors, commissioners, writers, and copyists of 
the geographic texts within which these maps are found. 
However, the plethora of extant copies produced all over the 
Islamic world, including India, testifies to the enduring and 
widespread popularity of these medieval Islamic cartographic 
visions. For nothing less than six centuries (eight, if nineteenth- 
century South Asian examples are included), these carto- 
graphic visions were perpetuated primarily in one fossilized 
cartogeographic series: the Kitab al-masalik wa al-mamalik 
(Book of roads and kingdoms). 

What all these extant maps say is that — at least from the 
thirteenth century onward, whence copies of these map- 
manuscripts begin to proliferate — the world was a very de- 
picted place. It loomed large in the medieval Muslim imagi- 
nation. It was pondered, discussed, and copied with minor 
and major variations again and again. 

Al-ldrisi and Piri Re'is 

The better-known examples of this Islamic mapping tradi- 
tion, in contemporary Eastern as well as Western scholar- 
ship, is the work of the twelfth century North African 
geographical scholar al-Sharif al-ldrisi (d. 1165). The Nor- 
man king, Roger II (1097-1154), commissioned al-ldrisi to 
produce an illustrated geography of the world. This yielded 
al-Idrisi's Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (The book of 
pleasant journeys into faraway lands), also known as the Book 
of Roger. Al-ldrisi divided the world according to the Ptole- 
maic system of seven climes, with each clime broken down 
into ten sections. The most complete manuscript (1469) 
contains one world map and seventy detailed sectional maps. 

The sixteenth-century Ottoman naval captain, Muhyiddin 
Piri Re'is (d. 1554), was another Muslim cartographer who 
has become famous worldwide. Renowned for the earliest 
extant map of the New World, Piri Re'is and his accurate 
early-sixteenth-century map of South America and Antarc- 
tica have been the subject of many a controversial study. Piri 
Re'is also produced detailed sectional maps but — like the 
Italian isolarii — he restricted himself to the coastal areas of 
the Mediterranean. The second version of his Kitab-i Bahriyye 
(Book of maritime matters) contains 210 unique topo- 
cartographic maps of important Mediterranean cities and 

The striking mimesis (geographical accuracy) of these two 
Muslim cartographic traditions has caused the work of al- 
ldrisi and Piri Re'is to be elevated above the rest of the 
Middle Eastern mapping corpus in contemporary scholar- 
ship. Aside from the problems of attribution that abound with 
these two cartographers (none of the extant al-ldrisi maps, for 
instance, date back to his time, while Piri Re'is's map is 
thought to be a copy of one by Christopher Columbus), 
scholarly focus on this more mimetic end of the Islamic 
mapping tradition has occluded an enormous body of maps 
that were much more popular in the medieval and early 
modern Islamic world than the work of al-ldrisi or Piri Re'is. 

The "Wondrous" Tradition 

In actuality, maps occur in a wide variety of Islamic texts and 
contexts. A popular location for classical Islamic world and 
cosmographic maps is in the so-called Aja'ib ("wondrous") 
literary tradition, which includes descriptions of flora, fauna, 
architecture, and other wonders of the world. Best known of 
this genre is the work of the thirteenth century Iranian writer, 
Zakariyya' ibnMuhammad al-Qazwini (d. 1283), whose work 
'Aja'ib al-makhluqatroa ghara' ib al-matvjudat (The wonders of 
creatures and the marvels of creation) focuses on the wonders 
of the world — real and fabulous. Copies from the late thir- 
teenth century onward (during the lifetime of the author) 
began to incorporate illustrations of flora and fauna as well as 
world maps. 

Copies of Siraj al-Din Abu Hafs 'Umar Ibn al-Wardi's (d. 
1457) Kharidat al-ajaHb wafaridat al-ghara'ib (The unbored 
pearl of wonders and the precious gem of marvels) offer a 
variation of the 'Aja'ib tradition that incorporates at least one 
world map along with other cartographies, such as a Qibla 
map (a way-finding diagram for locating Mecca), and inset 
maps of Qazwin and other cities. Judging by the plethora of 
pocket book-size copies that still abound in every Oriental 
manuscript collection, the Kharidat al- Aja'ib must have been 
a bestseller in the late medieval and early modern Islamic 
world. Moreover, it is significant that this Arabic bestseller 
always incorporated, within the first four or five folios, a 
classical Islamic world map. 

Eventually the classical Islamic world maps also crept into 
general geographical encyclopedias, such as Shihab al-Din 
Abu 'Abdallah Yaqut's (d. 1229) thirteenth century Kitab 
Mu c jam al-Buldan (Dictionary of countries). The earliest 
prototype of this type of map is found in a copy of Abu '1- 
Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni's (d. after 1250) 
Kitab al-tafhim (Book of instruction). World maps are also 
used to open some of the classic histories. Copies of such 
well-known works as Ibn Khaldun's (d. 1406) Muqaddimah 
(The prologue) often begin with an al-ldrisi map, while 
copies of the historian Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al- 
Tabari's (d. 923) Ta'rikh al-rusul wa-al-muluk (History of 
prophets and kings) sometimes included a Ptolemaic "clime- 
type" map of the world as a frontispiece. Similarly, classical 
Islamic maps of the world found their way into sixteenth- 
century Ottoman histories, such as the scroll containing 
Seyyid Lokman's Zubdetu't-tevarih (Cream of histories) pro- 
duced in the reign of Suleyman I (1520-1566). 

New Maps for New Purposes 

From the fifteenth century until the late nineteenth century, 
hajj (pilgrimage) manuals containing map-like pictures of the 
holy sites proliferated. An excellent example of this prototype 
is the Futuh al-Haramayn (The conquests of the holy sites) 
manuscript series. Around the same time, a tradition began in 
mosques of including a glazed tile containing a schematic 
representation of the Ka'ba adjacent to the mihrab (prayer 

islam and the Muslim World 

1 29 

Cartography and Geography 

niche). If the definition of precisely what constitutes a map 
can be stretched, then even the map-like images found in 
Islamic miniature paintings can be incorporated into the 
Islamic cartographic repertoire. 

Some scholars believe that the source of this rich and 
widespread medieval Islamic propensity to make maps lies in 
the earliest Arabic textual references to maps. For instance, 
the silver globe {al-Sura al-Ma'muniya) that the Abbasid 
caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 813-833) is said to have commissioned 
from the scientists working in his Bayt al-Hikma (House of 
knowledge). The problem with the al-Ma'munid silver globe 
is that it is probably mythical. Other than an extremely vague 
passage cited in Abu '1-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Mas'udi's 
(d. 956) Kitab al-tanbih wa-al-ishraf (Book of instruction and 
revision), there are no descriptions of it. Al-Mas c udi's de- 
scription is very confused. It suggests an impossibly compli- 
cated celestial map superimposed upon a globe, an extremely 
sophisticated armillary sphere of which there are no extant 
example until the fourteenth century. At least one scholar, 
David King, has interpreted this description to suggest an 
astrolabe with world-map markings superimposed on it. 

There also are a few references to maps from the end of 
the first century of Islam (c. 702). Apparently, al-Hallaj ibn 
Yusuf, the Umayyad governor of the eastern part of the 
Muslim empire, commissioned maps, for military purposes, 
of the region of Daylam (south of the Caspian Sea), as well as 
a plan of the city of Bukhara. Requests for maps for military 
purposes are highly unusual in Islamic history. Not until the 
time of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II (r. 1444-1446; 
1451-1481) are there similar requests for maps for military 
purposes. Unfortunately, none of the al-Hallaj requests are 
extant, and there are no detailed descriptions of these maps 

In Kitab al-buldan (Book of countries) Ahmad ibn Abi 
Ya'qub al-Ya'qubi (d. c. late ninth century) reports that a plan 
of the round city of Baghdad was drawn up in 758 for the 
Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur (r. 754-775). The Egyptian chroni- 
cler al-Maqrizi mentions that a "magnificent" map on "fine 
blue" silk with "gold lettering" upon which was pictured 
"parts of the earth with all the cities and mountains, seas and 
rivers" was prepared for the Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz (r. 
953-975) and even entombed with him in his mausoleum 
in Cairo. 

The only extant source containing maps prior to the Kitab 
al-masalik wa al-mamalik series is a ninth-century copy of Abu 
Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarazmi's (d. 847 c.e.) 
Kitab surat al-ard (Picture of the Earth). Composed primarily 
of a series of zij tables (tables containing longitudinal and 
latitudinal coordinates), it also includes four maps. Two are 
unidentifiable, one is a map of the Sea of Azov, and one is of 
the Nile. Of all the maps in this manuscript, only the map of 
the Nile appears to be directly related to maps of the Nile that 
one finds in later carto-geographical works. 

The Start of the Mapping Phenomenon 

In order to understand the mapping traditions that flowered 
in the Islamic world in the later middle ages and early modern 
period, one has to go back to the tradition that sired them all. 
It can be argued that the fins origo of the Islamic mapping 
tradition is none other than the so-called "Islamic Atlas." 
This carto-geographical tradition is best known by the title of 
its most prolifically copied version: al-Istakhri's Kitab al- 
masalik via al-mamalik (Book of roads and kingdoms). For 
convenience, this may be referred to as the KMMS mapping 
tradition. The "5" at the end of this acronym is used to specify 
those versions of this manuscript series that contain carto- 
graphic images (standing for Sura, pi. Suwar). 

Most of the KMMS maps occur in the context of geo- 
graphical treatises devoted to an explication of the world, in 
general, and the lands of the Muslim world, in particular. 
These "map-manuscripts" generally carry the title of Kitab al- 
masalik wa al-mamalik, although they are sometimes named 
Surat al-ard (Picture of the earth) or Suwar al-aqalim (Pic- 
tures of the climes/climates). These manuscripts emanated 
from an early tradition of creating lists of pilgrim and post 
stages that were compiled for administrative purposes. They 
read like armchair travelogs of the Muslim world, with one 
author copying prolifically from another. 

Beginning with a brief description of the world and 
theories about it — such as the inhabited versus the uninhabited 
parts, the reasons why people are darker in the south than in 
the north, and the like — these geographies methodically 
discuss details about the Muslim world, its cities, its people, 
its roads, its topography, and other such features. Sometimes 
the descriptions are interspersed with anecdotal matter, in- 
cluding tales of personal adventures, discussions with local 
inhabitants, or debates with sailors as to the exact shape of the 
earth and the number of seas. They have a rigid format that 
rarely varies: first the whole world, then the Arabian Penin- 
sula, then the Persian Gulf, then the Maghreb (North Africa 
and Andalusia), Egypt, Syria, the Mediterranean, upper and 
lower Iraq, as well as twelve maps devoted to the Iranian 
provinces, beginning with Khuzistan and ending in Khurasan, 
including maps of Sind and Transoxiana. The maps, which 
usually number precisely twenty-one, follow exactly the same 
format as the text and are thus an integral part of the work. 

The al-Balkhi Tradition and Controversy 

Not all these geographical manuscripts contain maps, how- 
ever. Rather, maps are found only in those referred to 
generally as part of the al-Balkhi/al-Istakhri tradition — the 
"Classical School" of geographers. This particular geographical 
genre is also referred to as the "Atlas of Islam." A great deal of 
mystery surrounds the origins and the architects of this 
manuscript-bound cartographic tradition. This is primarily 
because not a single manuscript survives in the hand of its 
original author. Furthermore, it is not clear who initiated the 
tradition of accompanying geographical texts with maps. 

1 30 

islam and the Muslim World 

Cartography and Geography 

Scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries hold 
that Abu Zayd Ahmad ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (d. 934), who — as his 
nisba (patronym) suggests — came from Balkh in Central Asia, 
initiated the series, and that his work and maps were later 
elaborated upon by Abu Ishaq ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al- 
Istakhri (fl. early tenth century) from Istakhr in the province 
of Fars. Al-Istakhri's work was, in turn, elaborated upon by 
Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Hawqal (fl. second half of 
tenth century), who came from upper Iraq (the region known 
as \hejazira). Abu Ahdallah Muhammad al-Muqaddasi (d. c. 
1000), from Jerusalem (Quds), is considered the last innova- 
tor in this series. 

The problem is that virtually no biographical information 
exists on the authors other than al-Balkhi. One is forced to 
rely on scraps of information in the geographical texts them- 
selves for information about their authors. The difficulty is 
compounded by the fact that, in all the forty-three titles that 
Ibn al-Nadim credits to al-Balkhi, not one even vaguely 
resembles the title of a geographical treatise. According to the 
biographers, al-Balkhi was famous as a philosopher and for 
his tafsir (commentaries on the Qur'an) — in particular one 
known as Na'm al-qur'an — which was praised by many judges. 
He is not, however, known in the biographical record for his 
geographical treatises. Yet stories of how al-Balkhi sired the 
Islamic mapping tradition endure. It is for this reason that the 
genre is generally referred to as the "Balkhi school of map- 
ping." The attribution of a whole school of mapping to a 
shadowy, mythical father who was anything but a specialist on 
geography or cartography is unfounded. 

The confusion is further compounded by the fact that 
many of the surviving copies contain either incomplete 
colophons (inscriptions containing attribution of authorship) 
or no colophons at all. Additionally, the texts are sometimes 
so mixed up in the surviving manuscripts that it is often 
difficult to disentangle them. The numerous incomplete and 
anonymous manuscripts, sometimes abridged, along with the 
versions translated into Persian, only cloud the matter further. 

Images of Other Worlds 

Since none of the KMMS manuscripts date back to their 
original authors, the issue of authorship of the first carto- 
geographical manuscript and precisely what it looked like is 
immaterial. What is relevant is that these geographical manu- 
scripts include some of the earliest pictographic images of the 
world in an Islamic context. Since all images are socially 
constructed, these iconic carto-ideographs contain valuable 
messages of the milieux in which they were produced. They 
are a rich source of new information that can be used as 
alternate gateways into the Islamic past. They can tell about 
the time period in which they were copied, and provide hints 
about the period in which they were originally conceived. 

Since the extant examples stretch in time from the elev- 
enth century to the nineteenth, and range from the heart of 

the Middle East to its peripheries, they provide us with 
insights from a broad range of time and space. The earliest 
extant set of Islamic maps comes from an Ibn Hawqal manu- 
script housed at the Topkapi Saray Museum Library firmly 
dated to the year 1086 by a clear colophon. Counterintuitively, 
this manuscript also contains the most mimetic maps of all 
the existing KMMS copies. This version of the KMMS even 
has an extraordinary triple folio fold-out map of the Mediter- 
ranean. Indeed, it is the world-map version of this manuscript 
that proliferates in a more embellished form via the Ibn al- 
Wardi manuscript copies from the fifteenth century. The 
striking mimesis of these maps stands in stark contrast to the 
maps of the later KMMS copies, which over the centuries 
abandon any pretense of mimesis entirely. 

After the KMMS set, a series of more and more stylized 
maps emerges that move further into the realm of objects d'art 
and away from direct empirical inquiry. By the nineteenth 
century the KMMS maps become so stylized that, were it not 
for the earlier examples, it would be hard to recognize them as 
the maps at all. Between these two extremes there are a series 
of KMMS world maps that range from somber in form and 
color (some even contain grids) to outright gaudy and lacking 
in fine detail. In the crevices of these maps the real and the 
imaginary, the terrestrial and the cosmographical, and the 
empirical and the fictional dance confusingly in front of 
people of today. 

An ancient map appears in the volume one color insert. 

See also Biruni, al-; Ibn Battuta; Ibn Khaldun; Persian 
Language and Literature. 


Cosgrove, Denis, ed. Mappings. London: Reaktion Books, 1999. 

Goodrich, Thomas. The Ottoman Turks and the New World: A 
Study of"Tarih-iHind-i Garbi" and Sixteenth-Century Otto- 
man Americana. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1990. 

Hapgood, Charles H. Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence 
of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age. New York: E. P. 
Dutton, 1979. 

Harley, J. B., and Woodward, David, eds. The History of 
Cartography: Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and 
South Asian Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1992. 

King, David. World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Dis- 
tance to Mecca: Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science. 
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1999. 

Kramers, Johannes Hendrik. Analecta Orientalia: Posthumous 
Writings and Selected Minor Works. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1954. 

Mcintosh, Greg. The Piri Reis Map of 1513. Athens: Univer- 
sity of Georgia Press, 2000 

Sezgin, Fuat. Geschichte Des Arabischen Schrifttums: 
Mathematische Geographic und Kartographie im Islam und 

isiam and the Muslim World 


Central Asia, Islam in 

Ihr Fortleben im Abendland. Historische Darstellung. Frank- 
furt: Institut fur Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen 
Wissenschaften an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe- 
Universitat Frankfurt am Main, 2000. 

Soucek, Svat. Piri Reis and Turkish Mapmaking after Columbus. 
London: The Nour Foundation, 1996. 

Karen C. Pinto 


Central Asia is a modern geographical designation covering 
an area of considerable political, ethnic, and linguistic diver- 
sity, but marked by a distinctive cultural synthesis rooted in 
the meeting of the civilization of Inner Asia with that of the 
Middle East and the Islamic world. In terms of contemporary 
political boundaries, it comprises the newly independent 
post-Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, 
Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as adjacent parts of the 
Chinese province of Xinjiang, of northern Afghanistan, of 
northeastern Iran, and of the Russian Federation. 

The chief historical regions comprising Central Asia in- 
clude Mawarannahr, often called Transoxiana or Transoxania, 
the traditional heartland; the Farghana valley; the Tarim 
basin, often called Chinese or East Turkistan and now form- 
ing the major part of the province of Xinjiang in the People's 
Republic of China; the Syr Darya valley, with its commercial 
oasis towns; the steppe regions to the north known since the 
eleventh century as the Dasht-e Qipchaq; the region of the 
Amu Darya delta to the south of the Aral Sea, known 
historically as Khwarazm; and Khurasan, typically regarded 
as the northeasternmost province of Iran, but more often 
closely linked with Transoxiana in political, ethnic, and 
economic terms. 

From the Arab Conquest to the Mongol Invasion 

The Arab conquest of Iran brought Muslim armies to 
Khurasan, and raids were conducted as far as Balkh and into 
Transoxania already during the 650s, as Arab governors 
based first in Basra in Iraq and later (from 667) in Marv began 
the dual policy of establishing garrison towns in some areas, 
with Arab families transplanted from Iraq, and elsewhere 
leaving local dynasts in power as tributary rulers. A new stage 
in the conquest of Central Asia began with the appointment, 
in 705, of Qutayba b. Muslim as the governor of Khurasan. 
Qutayba's ten-year career brought the military conquest of 
Bukhara and Samarkand as well as of Khwarazm, and the 
initiation of campaigns into Farghana and as far beyond the 
Syr Darya as Isfijab; it also saw important institutional devel- 
opments, as Arab garrisons were established in Bukhara and 
Samarkand, troops were levied from the local population to 
serve with the Muslim armies, mosques were built in these 

cities, and measures were undertaken to induce conversion 
to Islam. 

These patterns of Arab rule established under Qutayba 
proved more enduring than his conquests. Following his 
murder by mutinous troops in the Farghana valley in 715, 
Arab control in Transoxania was soon rolled back, and nearly 
a quarter-century passed before the Muslim armies were able 
to take the initiative again. Local rulers such as the Sogdian 
king Ghurak regained their independence and successfully 
fought the Arabs, but a new force from the steppe — the 
Turgesh confederation — posed a more serious threat to Arab 
control. The Turgesh were able to raid deep into Transoxania 
and eventually into Khurasan as well. The death of the 
Turgesh ruler in 737, however, led to the collapse of his 
confederation; Ghurak died the same year, and soon after- 
ward a new Umayyad governor of Khurasan, Nasr b. Sayyar, 
was able, during the 740s, to reconquer central Transoxania, 
the Farghana valley, and parts of eastern Khurasan that had 
reverted to local rulers, and to lead successful campaigns as 
far as Tashkent. 

Soon, however, the Abbasid revolution, a movement that 
took shape militarily in Khurasan, swept the Umayyads from 
power; Abbasid agitation there began even before the arrival 
of the famous Abu Muslim in 747, and both the Arab colonists 
in Khurasan and Transoxania and local converts to Islam 
played significant roles in the success of the Abbasid cause. 
Disaffection with Umayyad rule was particularly strong among 
the local converts, resentful of policies that relegated them to 
a subordinate status vis-a-vis the Arabs. Nevertheless, the 
series of religiously tinged revolts that broke out in Transoxania 
and Khurasan beginning in the late Umayyad era continued 
through the first decades of Abbasid rule. Abbasid control in 
Central Asia in fact remained tenuous until the revolt of Rafi c 
b. Layth beginning in 806. This revolt posed such a serious 
threat that the caliph himself, Harun al-Rashid, was com- 
pelled to set out to deal with it. Following his death in 809, his 
son al-Ma'mun, installed as governor in Marv, succeeded in 
suppressing it, and after his elevation as caliph in 813, al- 
Ma'mun — still based in Marv — conducted a series of decisive 
campaigns against independent local rulers that may be 
regarded as the culmination of the Arab conquest of Cen- 
tral Asia. 

Almost as soon as it was solidified, Abbasid control in 
Central Asia devolved upon local governors loyal to the 
caliph and at least nominally dependent upon him. One of the 
participants in al-Ma'mun's suppression of the revolt of Rafi c 
b. Layth was one Tahir b. Husayn, whom the caliph ap- 
pointed governor of Khurasan in 82 1 . The Tahirid dynasty 
ruled Khurasan and Transoxania until its destruction in 873 
by the Saffarids of Sistan. Members of the Samanid family 
also took part in al-Ma'mun's campaigns, and served the 
Tahirids as governors in Samarkand, Farghana, and Tashkent. 

1 3 2 

islam and the Muslim World 

Central Asia, Islam in 

Samanid dynasts expanded their power through campaigns 
deep into the steppe, and with the collapse of the Tahirids 
received caliphal recognition as the rightful governors of 
Transoxania. The real foundations of the dynasty's power 
were laid by Isma'il Samani, who destroyed the Saffarids in 
900 and established Bukhara as the center of his realm. The 
dramatic decline in the political importance of the Abbasid 
caliphs that preceded the Samanid era (900-999) left the 
Samanids the rulers of an essentially independent state based 
in Central Asia; their patronage of religious and cultural 
institutions made tenth-century Central Asia one of the most 
vibrant and influential parts of the Muslim world. 

Well into the first half of the tenth century, the Samanids 
retained their ability to project their power into the steppe to 
the north and northeast of Transoxania, but the Samanid era 
also brought crucial developments in the political and cul- 
tural history of the Turks of Central Asia. The tenth century 
marks the beginning of the large-scale involvement of Turkic 
peoples in Islamic civilization. Before this time, Turks from 
Central Asia had already played an important role in Muslim 
history as military slaves active at the caliphal court in 
Baghdad as well as other, more westerly parts of the Muslim 
world. The institution of Turkic military slaves would remain 
an important avenue for the assimilation of Turkic (and 
other) peoples into Islamic civilization, and, beginning with 
the Ghaznavids, would yield a substantial number of ruling 
dynasties from India to Egypt. Ultimately more important 
for Central Asian history, however, was the large-scale con- 
version to Islam by Turkic peoples; this was happening along 
the frontiers of Samanid Central Asia, but the tenth century 
also saw the establishment of Islam in remoter regions of 
Turkic Inner Asia, far beyond the limits reached by Muslim 
armies. During the middle of the tenth century, a member of 
a Turkic dynasty based in East Turkistan, in the city of 
Kashghar, adopted Islam, evidently in the course of a power 
straggle with a rival member of the same dynasty. The 
narrative of his conversion, which was elaborated and cele- 
brated from at least the eleventh century to the twentieth, 
identified him as Satuq Bughra Khan. The convert was 
successful, and the dynasty, which has come to be known as 
that of the Qarakhanids, soon expanded its territories to the 
west, moving against the Samanid frontiers in the Syr Darya 
basin and, with the conquest of Bukhara in 999, effectively 
putting an end to the Samanid state. In this case, however, 
religious frontiers had shifted substantially; the Turks from 
the steppe who conquered sedentary Central Asia were al- 
ready Muslims, and the ulema of Bukhara are famously 
reported to have counseled the city's population that they 
were under no obligation to defend their Samanid rulers, 
insofar as the Qarakhanids were good Muslims. 

The Qarakhanids are of tremendous importance as the 
initial custodians of the Turkic/Islamic cultural synthesis and 
sponsors of the first Islamic Turkic literature. Qarakhanid 

patronage yielded the Turkic Qutadghu bilig, a "mirror for 
princes" completed around 1 070 by Yusuf of Balasaghun for a 
Qarakhanid ruler of Kashghar. The Qarakhanids are also 
important, however, simply as the holders of power in much 
of Central Asia, at the regional and local level, for over two 
centuries. Even as supreme power in Central Asia shifted to 
the Seljuks or the Qarakhitays or the Khwarazmshahs, local 
dynasties linked to the Qarakhanid tradition continued to 
rule in Samarkand, in parts of the Farghana valley, and in 
towns of the Syr Darya basin. The last known Qarakhanid 
dynast was removed by the Khwarazmshah Muhammad (tar- 
get of the Mongol invasion) only in 1209. 

Of even greater significance for the Islamic world at large 
was the third Muslim Turkic dynasty to appear in Central 
Asia during the Samanid era, that of the Seljuks. The Seljuk 
royal house emerged, in the latter tenth century, as tribal 
leaders among the Oghuz Turks who nomadized near the 
lower course of the Syr Darya, northeast of the Aral Sea. The 
narrative of Seljuk origins links their adoption of Islam to a 
power struggle, again with conversion signaling a break with 
their former overlord as well as an alliance against him with 
the Muslim people of the Syr Darya town of Jand. By the early 
eleventh century the Seljuks were involved in the military 
and political turmoil that accompanied the division of the 
Samanid realm between the Ghaznavids, in Khurasan, and 
the Qarakhanids, in Transoxania, and quickly dominated 
both regions, leaving the Qarakhanid dynasts as vassals but 
effectively crushing the Ghaznavid presence in Khurasan 
with their defeat of Mahmud's son and successor, Mas c ud, in 
1 040 at Dandanqan, near Marv. Thereafter the Seljuks began 
their phenomenal sweep through Iran and the Middle East, 
seizing Baghdad by 1055 and defeating the Byzantines in 
Anatolia in 1071. 

Seljuk success in Central Asia itself was less overwhelming 
than further west. By the first half of the twelfth century, 
Seljuk dynasts were plagued by the devastating raids, deep 
into Khurasan, of other groups of Oghuz ("Ghuzz") nomads 
who did not accept their rale, and the final blow to Seljuk 
power in the east came in 1 141, when the sultan, Sanjar, was 
defeated in the Qatvan steppe, northeast of Samarkand, by 
the Qarakhitays. The latter, remnants of the Qitan people 
who had dominated northern China (as the Liao dynasty) 
since the early tenth century, had fled westward after their 
ouster from China in the 1120s and dominated the steppe 
regions of Central Asia down to the Mongol conquest. The 
non-Muslim Qarakhitays were for the most part absentee 
overlords with regard to Transoxania, and most regions 
remained in the hands of local elites, whether Qarakhanid 
dynasts or, as in the case of Bukhara, a prominent family of 
Hanafi jurists known as the Al-e Burhan. 

The Qarakhitay defeat of the Seljuks provided an oppor- 
tunity for expansion by a dynasty of local rulers based in 

islam and the Muslim World 


Central Asia, Islam in 

Khwarazm, whose ancestors had assumed control there in the 
service of the Seljuks. These Khwarazmshahs, under nominal 
Qarakhitay suzerainty, extended their power into Khurasan 
and into the lower Syr Darya valley, and by the beginning of 
the thirteenth century had become the most powerful rul- 
ers in the eastern Islamic world. The ambitions of the 
Khwarazmshah Muhammad (r. 1200-1218) led him to clash 
with the Ghurid dynasty based south of the Hindu Kush, with 
the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir (who was intent on restoring 
the caliphate's political power), with his Qarakhitay over- 
lords, and finally with the new Inner Asian power, the 
Mongols under Genghis Khan. Muhammad's disastrous re- 
buff of the khan's diplomatic and commercial overtures led to 
the Mongol invasion that, from 1216 to 1223, devastated 
much of Transoxania and Khurasan and destroyed the 
Khwarazmian state. 

The Mongol and Timurid Periods, 1220-1500 

Mongol rule was established in Central Asia well before the 
subsequent Mongol campaign of 1256-1258, which destroyed 
the Abbasid caliphate and brought all of Iran and much of the 
Middle East under Mongol control. The impact of the 
Mongol conquest likewise endured much longer in Central 
Asia than elsewhere in the Muslim world, above all through 
the political principles established in the thirteenth cen- 
tury and maintained, in one form or another, down to the 
eighteenth. These principles made sovereignty a preroga- 
tive reserved solely for blood descendants of Genghis 
(Chinggis) Khan. They inaugurated a political tension — 
between Chinggisids with the theoretical right to rule, and 
powerful tribal chieftains with direct control over the nomadic 
military forces crucial to the Chinggisids's power — that would 
shape Central Asian political history down to the Russian 
conquest. The descendants of Genghis Khan alone could 
bear the sovereign title khan, and were known by the Turkic 
term oghlan (the "sons," par excellence). In the parts of the 
Mongol-ruled world that were Islamized, the princes of the 
blood who did not rise to supreme power (but always re- 
mained potential candidates for that role) were more often 
known by the Muslim term signaling sovereign authority, 
sultan. The tribal chieftains, by contrast, were known by the 
Turkic term bek or what came to be its Arabic equivalent, emir 
(with scions of the tribal elite referred to by the Arabo- 
Persian hybrid emir-zada, that is, "born of an emir," typically 
shortened to mirza). 

As the Mongol empire split along regional lines in the 
middle of the thirteenth century, different parts of Central 
Asia fell to different ruling lineages stemming from the four 
sons of Genghis Khan. Khwarazm, parts of the lower Syr 
Darya basin, and much of the Dasht-e Qipchaq came to be 
regarded as part of the realm (ulus) of the descendants of Jochi 
(the "Golden Horde"), centered in the lower Volga valley, 
while much of Iran was in the hands of the Ilkhanid realm 
centered in Azerbaijan, that was ruled by descendants of 

Genghis Khan's grandson, Hulegu, who had led the cam- 
paign of 1256-1258. The heartland of Transoxania, as well as 
the Tarim basin, parts of Khurasan, and the eastern parts of 
the Dasht-i Qipchaq, were nominally part of the ulus of 
Genghis's son Chaghatay, though in fact, through much of 
the second half of the thirteenth century, this region was 
dominated by Qaydu, a descendant of Genghis's son and first 
successor Ogodey. Not until the early fourteenth century did 
the Chaghatayid lineage reassert itself, under the khans Esen 
Buqa and Kebek. In each of these western successor states of 
the Mongol empire, the process of Islamization was under- 
way already in the thirteenth century, and by the second 
quarter of the fourteenth century khans from each of the 
Chinggisid dynasties ruling there — as well as members of the 
tribal aristocracy and ordinary nomads — had become Muslims. 

By the 1330s, however, the Ilkhanid state was disintegrat- 
ing, and real power in most of the Chaghatayid ulus had 
reverted to the tribal chieftains, who made and unmade khans 
to suit their own ends. It was in the western part of the 
Chaghatayid realm that Timur, an emir of the Barlas tribe 
based in southern Transoxania, rose to power during the 
1360s; within a decade he had succeeded in consolidating his 
power over Transoxania and Khurasan and had begun the 
career of conquest that would make him master not only of 
Central Asia, but of Iran and much of the Middle East as well, 
culminating with campaigns as far east as Delhi and as far 
west as Ankara. Following Timur's death in 1405, his descen- 
dants were able to maintain control only over his Central 
Asian domains, in Transoxania, Iran, and Khurasan (where 
Herat soon emerged as a cosmopolitan center of cultural 
patronage). The Timurid state in Central Asia fractured soon 
after the death of Timur's son and successor Shahrukh in 
1447, with separate branches of the Timurid lineage holding 
power in Khurasan and Transoxania. 

The Uzbek Era, 1500-1865 

Timur, though not a Chinggisid, clearly sought to evoke the 
legacy of Genghis Khan's conquests during his lifetime, and 
his successors likewise cultivated their Inner Asian heritage 
alongside their patronage of Islamic institutions. Never- 
theless, the Timurids were regarded as usurpers by real 
Chinggisids, and the principal challenges to his rule in Cen- 
tral Asia, and to that of his descendants, came from the 
nomads of the Dasht-e Qipchaq, ruled by Chinggisids from 
the lineage of Jochi. By the time of Timur, the Turkic 
nomads of the eastern half of the Dasht-e Qipchaq, who 
belonged to what remained of the Jochid ulus (i.e., the 
"Golden Horde"), had come to be known by the designation 
Uzbek (ozbek); the origin of this appellation is obscure, but is 
ascribed by indigenous tradition to the impact of the adop- 
tion of Islam by Ozbek Khan of the Golden Horde (r. 

Timur himself faced invasions into his domains by nomadic 
armies from the northern steppe led by various Jochid rulers 

1 34 

islam and the Muslim World 

Central Asia, Islam in 

and tribal chieftains.Timur's efforts to secure stability and 
peace on his northern frontier were continued by his succes- 
sors; Shahrukh succeeded in securing Khwarazm by 1 4 1 3 , but 
his son Ulugh Beg's meddling in Jochid affairs led to his 
serious defeat by one would-be khan near Sighnaq in 1427. 
Shortly after this event, a young prince from the lineage of 
Shiban (the fifth son of Jochi), named Abu '1-Khayr Khan, 
succeeded, with the aid of the powerful chieftains of the 
Manghit tribe, in establishing his power over most of the 
Uzbek tribes of the Dasht-e Qipchaq, and established a 
confederation strong enough to challenge the Timurids and 
influence internal Timurid politics. 

The Qalmaqs. This first Uzbek confederation was shaken by 
attacks from the Qalmaqs (i.e., the Kalmyks or Oyrats, 
western Mongols) in the mid-fifteenth century, and collapsed 
after Abu '1-Khayr Khan's death (c. 1469), but the founder's 
grandson, known as Muhammad Shibani Khan, succeeded in 
reformulating a substantial part of the coalition by the end of 
the fifteenth century. As internal dissension weakened the 
Timurid state in Transoxania, Shibani Khan succeeded in 
conquering Samarkand and Bukhara in 1500, consolidated 
his hold on Transoxania and seized Khwarazm by 1505. He 
moved across the Amu Darya to attack the Timurids in 
Khurasan soon after the death of the last powerful Timurid, 
Sultan Husayn Bayqara, seizing the Timurid capital, Herat, 
in 1507. His ambitions were cut short late in 1510 when he 
was defeated and killed in battle with the Safavid ruler Shah 
Isma'il near Marv. The Safavid victory led to a virtually total 
withdrawal of Uzbek forces from Transoxania. Within two 
years, however, the Uzbeks, led by Muhammad Shibani 
Khan's nephew c Ubaydullah and other descendants of Abu T 
Khayr Khan, had expelled the Safavid forces and their Timurid 
supporters (including Babur, who would found the Mogul 
empire of India) from Transoxania. Khurasan became a 
battleground between the Safavids and the Uzbeks, with 
Herat changing hands several times during the sixteenth 

The Qazaqs. The Qazaqs with whom Muhammad Shibani 
Khan fought were of precisely the same ethnic stock as his 
Uzbek followers; the name qazaq ("freebooter") had been 
applied pejoratively to the components of Abu '1-Khayr 
Khan's Uzbek confederation who broke with Abu '1-Khayr 
and followed other Chinggisids out of his coalition. The 
essentially political, rather than ethnic, distinction between 
Qazaq and Uzbek remained somewhat fluid through the 
sixteenth century. After their Uzbek kinsmen moved with the 
Shibanids or other Chinggisids into Transoxania, Khwarazm, 
and Khurasan, the Qazaqs occupied the Dasht-e Qipchaq, 
and continued their large-scale, seasonal pastoral nomadic 
migrations. The Qazaqs too were ruled by Chinggisid sul- 
tans, and came to be divided into three loosely affiliated units 
(zhiiz) known in the West as "hordes." The middle Syr Darya 
valley became the focus of frequent wars between the Qazaq 

Chinggisids and the Uzbek khans of Transoxania, with towns 
such as Tashkent, Sayram, and Turkistan held by the Qazaqs 
through much of the seventeenth century. 

The c Arabshahids. In Khwarazm, meanwhile, a separate 
Chinggisid dynasty supported by Uzbek nomads from the 
Dasht-e Qipchaq took power following the ouster of the 
Safavid forces that occupied the region after the defeat 
of Muhammad Shibani Khan. This dynasty, often referred 
to as the 'Arabshahids, extended its control to the south, 
into Khurasan, during the middle of the sixteenth century, 
and maintained power in Khwarazm to the early eight- 
eenth century. One of its members, Abu '1-Ghazi Khan (r. 
1643-1663), is known for his harsh measures against the 
Turkmen nomads inhabiting the frontiers of the Khwarazmian 
oasis, for his reorganization of the Uzbek tribes of Khwarazm, 
and for the two historical works he wrote in Chaghatay Turkic. 

The polity in Transoxania and, later, in parts of Khurasan 
that was reformulated by the kinsmen of Muhammad Shibani 
Khan following the defeat at Marv, was not a centralized 
state, much less an empire, but rather a collection of loosely 
linked appanages assigned to Chinggisid princes who took 
part in the conquest. There were thus separate and essentially 
co-equal Chinggisid sultans based in Samarkand, Bukhara, 
Tashkent, Balkh, and other appanages, with the senior mem- 
ber of the extended ruling clan recognized as khan. The 
equilibrium that maintained this decentralized system broke 
down in the 1 5 50s, and gave way to bitter struggles among the 
princes that culminated in the gradual, and bloody, consoli- 
dation of power by 'Abdallah Khan. The latter's success in 
eliminating rivals meant that when his son was murdered 
shortly after 'Abdallah's own death in 1598, the tribal chief- 
tains and urban elites of Transoxania were compelled to seek 
a Chinggisid khan from an altogether different Jochid line- 
age, one that had recently been dislodged from its hereditary 
realm along the lower Volga by the Russian conquest of the 
commercial emporium of Astrakhan. This dynasty, known 
variously as that of the Janids, the Ashtarkhanids, or the 
Toqay Timurids ruled Transoxania and Balkh until 1747. 

Despite the stability seemingly implied by the long reigns 
of Ashtarkhanid rulers such as Imam Quli Khan (r. 161 1-1 642), 
c Abd al- [ Aziz Khan (r. 1645-1681), Subhan Quli Khan (r. 
1681-1702), and Abu '1-Fayz Khan (r. 1711-1747), this era 
saw the steady erosion of the khans's authority in favor of 
powerful tribal chieftains, and the steady diminution of the 
state itself. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the 
power of the Chinggisid khans had been seriously weakened 
both in Khwarazm and in Transoxania, to the benefit of the 
tribal aristocracy, and political instability was exacerbated by 
economic dislocation and external military threats. In par- 
ticular, the renewed success of the Mongol Junghars (Oyrats) 
in the Dasht-e Qipchaq sent waves of Qazaq refugees into 
Transoxania in the 1720s, devastating the region's agricul- 
tural base and prompting in turn the flight of much of the 

islam and the Muslim World 


Central Asia, Islam in 

sedentary population there into the Farghana valley and 
other areas. The Junghar threat also induced some Qazaq 
Chinggisids to seek protection from the Russian empire, and 
the formal submission of these khans later served as a pretext 
for the extension of Russian control over the Qazaq steppes. 

The Afghan Turkmen. The political and military weakness 
of Central Asia was further underscored by the invasion of 
Nader Shah, the warlord of the Afshar tribe of Turkmens 
who seized power in Iran in 1728, driving out the Afghans 
who had put an end to the Safavid dynasty six years earlier. 
His conquest of Bukhara and Khwarazm in 1740 helped 
launch the final stage in the transition to the new dynasties of 
Uzbek tribal origin that would rule much of Central Asia into 
the second half of the nineteenth century. In Bukhara, a 
chieftain of the Manghit tribe who had formerly served the 
weak Ashtarkhanid ruler Abu 5 1-Fayz Khan had the latter 
ruler deposed and killed soon after Nader Shah's assassina- 
tion in 1747. In Khwarazm, Nader Shah's conquest led to an 
extended period of profound disorder, culminating in the 
occupation of the capital, Khiva, by the Yomut tribe of 
Turkmens in 1768. In this case it was a chieftain of the 
Qonghrat tribe, who likewise had filled important state posi- 
tions under the Chinggisid khans there, who succeeded in 
driving out the Yomuts and restoring order. The Manghit 
and Qonghrat dynasties thus established ruled Bukhara and 
Khiva, respectively, even after the Russian conquest, surviv- 
ing as protectorates of the Russian state until 1920. 

Nader Shah's career also set the stage for the emergence 
of Ahmad Shah Durrani (r. 1747-1773), the Afghan warlord 
who was able to seize the regions of Balkh and Herat to add to 
his base in Qandahar and Kabul, and thereby forged the basis 
for modern Afghanistan; the Manghits of Bukhara continued 
to contest the loss of Balkh, however, and permanent Afghan 
control of the region that became known as "Afghan Turkistan" 
was not secured until the middle of the nineteenth century. 

The Khanate of Qoqand. In the Farghana valley, finally, 
another Uzbek tribal dynasty took shape in the first half of the 
eighteenth century, as chieftains of the Ming tribe made the 
town of Qoqand (or Khuqand) their base and extended their 
control throughout the valley; this region proved to be the 
most economically dynamic area of Central Asia during the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the Ming dynasty 
was able to exploit the valley's agricultural and commercial 
wealth to build a state that became the most powerful in 
Central Asia during the first half of the nineteenth century. 
Under c Alim Khan (r. 1798-1809) and his brother c Umar 
Khan (r. 1809-1822), the khanate of Qoqand expanded to the 
north, seizing Tashkent and the towns of the middle Syr 
Darya; further Qoqandian expansion into the Dasht-i Qipchaq 
brought both Qazaq and Qirghiz nomads under the khanate's 
control, and led inevitably to a confrontation with the Rus- 
sian empire, which was expanding into the same regions from 
the north. 

The khans of Qoqand were also closely involved in affairs 
of East Turkistan, where political structures had developed 
quite differently from those of western Central Asia in the 
Uzbek era. There, dynasts of the lineage of Chaghatay had 
withstood challenges from both the Timurids and the Uzbek 
Chinggisids to the west, and from the Mongol Junghars to 
the north, down to the late seventeenth century. Shifting 
political alignments involving rival branches of a family of 
Naqshbandi khwajas (descendants and Sufi successors of a 
sixteenth-century shaykh of Transoxania known as Makhdum-e 
A'zam), which had been established in the region from the 
late sixteenth century, contributed to the conquest of the 
region by the Junghars in 1681, putting an end to the 
Chaghatayid dynasty. The Junghars installed Afaq Khwaja (d. 
1694), leader of the Aqtaghliq ("White Mountain") khwaja 
faction, as their governor in Kashghar. Struggles between the 
khwaja factions continued after his death, leading the Junghars 
first to deport the leaders of both factions, and later to switch 
their support to the rival Qarataghliq ("Black Mountain") 

The Manchus. By the middle of the eighteenth century, 
however, khwaja contenders were seeking support against the 
Junghars through the growing power of the Manchu empire 
(the Qing dynasty of China). The climactic struggle between 
the Manchus and the Junghars for domination of the Inner 
Asian heartland culminated in the total destruction of the 
Junghar state in 1758. The khwaja state too was destroyed, as 
the Manchus incorporated both the Tarim basin and the 
Junghar homeland into their empire (it would become known 
as the "New Province," Xinjiang, of China), but the khwaja 
lineages continued to stir up rebellions among the Muslims of 
the region, with the active support, beginning in the 1 820s, of 
the khans of Qoqand based in the Farghana valley. A major 
uprising of Chinese Muslims from 1862 to 1876 kept the 
Qing dynasty occupied as the Qoqandian adventurer Ya'qub 
Bek carved out his own state, with the support of an Aqtaghliq 
khwaja based in Kashghar. The suppression of the revolt led 
to the Qing reconquest of the Tarim basin by 1878. The 
Turkic Muslim population of East Turkistan was able to 
reassert its independence sporadically following the collapse 
of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, with several attempts to 
create an East Turkistan Republic during the 1930s and 
1940s. The Chinese communist victory in 1949 led to the 
region's incorporation into the People's Republic of China as 
the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The PRC's colo- 
nization policy brought a massive influx of Han Chinese that 
has reduced the Muslim component to approximately 60 
percent of the region's population. 

The Russian Conquest and the Soviet Era, 1865-1991 

During the late eighteenth century and the first half of the 
nineteenth, the rulers of the Uzbek tribal dynasties in the 
three khanates of western Central Asia — Bukhara, Khiva, and 
Qoqand — were succeeding where the Chinggisid khans had 
long failed: They crushed the power of the tribal chieftains, 

1 36 

islam and the Muslim World 

Central Asia, Islam in 

instituted military reforms that lessened their dependence on 
the tribal forces, created a more centralized bureaucratic 
apparatus for state administration, and concentrated far more 
power in their own hands than any Chinggisid khan had held 
for centuries. Despite this period of relative revitalization, 
however, the three Central Asian khanates were hopelessly 
outmatched militarily by the expanding Russian empire. 

Russian commercial ties with Central Asia had developed 
extensively from the latter sixteenth century, as the conquest 
of the last successor states of the Golden Horde opened 
Siberia to Russian conquest. By the latter eighteenth century, 
Russian encroachment from the Volga-Ural valley and Sibe- 
ria had reduced the Qazaqs to vassal status. The suppression 
of Qazaq revolts in the 1830s and 1840s brought Russian 
forces into the Syr Darya valley, where they attacked 
Qoqandian outposts already in the 1850s. 

The outright military conquest of southern Central Asia 
followed the freeing of Russian military resources by the end 
of the Crimean War, and by the suppression of Muslim 
resistance in the North Caucasus. Russian troops moved 
against the towns of the middle Syr Darya valley in 1 864, and 
seized Tashkent in 1865. Operations southwest of Tashkent 
brought confrontations with Bukharan troops, culminating 
in the Russian capture of Samarkand in 1868 and the estab- 
lishment of a Russian protectorate over the khanate of Bukhara. 
A Russian force marched on Khiva in 1873 and forced a 
similar arrangement on the Qonghrat khan. Further defeats 
of Qoqandian forces brought the submission of that khanate 
as well, but repeated revolts and social unrest in the Farghana 
valley led Russian officials to dissolve the khanate of Qoqand 
in 1876 and bring its territories under direct Russian rule. 
The Turkmen nomads to the south of Khwarazm put up a 
stiffer resistance, surrendering to Russian control only after a 
massacre of Turkmen men, women, and children at Gok 
Tepe, near modern-day Ashgabat, in 1881. By 1895, negotia- 
tions between the Russian and British empires had defined 
the southern border of the Russian holdings in Central Asia, 
corresponding to the present-day borders of the Central 
Asian republics with Iran and Afghanistan. 

Russian rule at first brought few changes to the daily lives 
of Central Asian Muslims, but growing contacts between 
Russians and Central Asians, as well as economic changes 
brought on by increased trade with Russia, led to the emer- 
gence of small native circles intent upon revitalizing local 
society through educational and cultural changes. Following 
the 1905 revolution in Russia, these groups — known as jadidists, 
a term applied to reformist Muslims throughout the Russian 
empire — became increasingly concerned with political is- 
sues, and it was from among them that the Russian Bolsheviks 
would find their first allies among the native population 
following the revolutions of 1917. These reformist circles 
were important for launching the reevaluation of communal 

identities and mores that would create the modern Soviet 
nations of Central Asia. The Bolshevik victory in the Civil 
War was followed, in Central Asia, by an administrative 
reorganization that reflected both practical concerns and 
Lenin's rhetoric about national self-determination. This "na- 
tional delimitation" drew borders for the new people's repub- 
lics, in part on the basis of older administrative units, but in 
part on the basis of ethnographic and linguistic surveys 
conducted by scholars and officials using a somewhat arbi- 
trarily chosen set of ethnic and national designations. The 
basic work was done by 1924; changes in the hierarchical 
status of the units thus created, within the system of union 
republics, autonomous republics, and autonomous regions 
that comprised the ethnically defined structures of the USSR, 
continued until 1936, leaving five union republics — the Kazakh, 
Uzbek, Kirgiz, Tadzhik, and Turkmen republics (using the 
Russianized names that were official through the Soviet 
period) — in western Central Asia. 

Soviet policy demanded the strict subordination of na- 
tional identities to the construction of socialist society. How- 
ever, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s local elites were 
able to develop considerable autonomy in republican affairs, 
and, within limits, to give expression to Sovietized national 
cultures. In the 1980s Soviet reformers sought to rein in the 
entrenched national bureaucracies, citing corruption and 
abuses of power in the republics. Increasingly vocal national- 
ist movements demanded the assertion of cultural and politi- 
cal rights, culminating in declarations of sovereignty by all of 
the Central Asian republics. With the failed coup attempt of 
August 1991 and the dissolution of the USSR later that year, 
each of the republics declared independence. By that time, 
however, the local communist elites had co-opted the nation- 
alist movements and ensured their hold on power, now as 
nationalists rather than communists. The 1990s saw, in all the 
Central Asian republics, a rollback of political rights asserted 
during the last years of the Soviet regime, the often brutal 
stifling of political dissent, and the total monopolization of 
power by the former republican communist parties, now 
appropriately renamed. At the same time, the republican 
elites appeared to be committed to the enterprise of nation- 
building, understanding their power to be rooted in existing 
political structures rather than in any revolutionary transfor- 
mation of the prevailing conceptions of communal identity, 
which those structures served to reify. 

See also Central Asian Culture and Islam; Commu- 
nism; Reform: Muslim Communities of the Russian 


Bacon, Elizabeth. Central Asians under Russian Rule: A Study 
in Culture Change. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University 
Press, 1966. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Central Asian Culture and Islam 

Barthold, V. V. Four Studies on the History of Central Asia. 
Translated by V. Minorsky and T. Minorsky. Leiden: E.J. 
Brill, 1962. 

Barthold, V. V. Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, 4th ed. 
Translated by V. Minorsky and T. Minorsky. Edited by 
C. E. Bosworth. London: Luzac & Co., 1977. 

Becker, Seymour. Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara 
and Khiva, 1865-1924. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1968. 

Beckwith, Christopher I. The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: 
A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, 
Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages. 
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. 

Biran, Michal. Qaidu and the Rise of the Independent Mongol 
State in Central Asia. Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: Curzon 
Press, 1997. 

Bosworth, C. E. The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan 
and Eastern Iran 994-1040. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Uni- 
versity Press, 1963. 

Bregel, Yuri. "Tribal Tradition and Dynastic History: The 
Early Rulers of the Qongrats according to Munis." Asian 
and African Studies 16 (1982): 357-398. 

Bregel, Yuri. An Historical Atlas of Central Asia. Leiden: 
Brill, 2003. 

Burton, Audrey. The Bukharans: A Dynastic, Diplomatic and 
Commercial History, 1550-1102. New York: St. Martin's 
Press, 1997. 

Daniel, Elton L. The Political and Social History of Khurasan 
under Abbasid Rule 747-820. Minneapolis and Chicago: 
Bibliotheca Islamica, 1979. 

Fletcher, Joseph. "The Naqshbandiyya in Northwest China." 
In Studies on Chinese and Islamic Inner Asia. Edited by 
Beatrice Forbes Manz. Aldershot, Hampshire, U.K.: Vario- 
rum, 1995. 

Forbes, Andrew D. W. Warlords and Muslims in Chinese 
Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 
1911-1949. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University 
Press, 1986. 

Frye, Richard N. Bukhara: The Medieval Achievement (1965). 
Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers, 1997. 

Golden, Peter B. "The Karakhanids and Early Islam." In 
The Cambridge Histoty of Early Inner Asia. Edited by 
Denis Sinor. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University 
Press, 1990. 

Golden, Peter B. An Introduction to the History of the Turkic 
Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and 
Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden: 
Otto Harrassowitz, 1992. 

Holdsworth, M. Turkestan in the Nineteenth Century: A Brief 
History of the Khanates of Bukhara, Kokand and Khiva. 
London: Central Asian Research Centre, 1959. 

Manz, Beatrice Forbes. The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane. Cam- 
bridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989. 

McChesney, Robert D. Waqf in Central Asia: Four Hundred 
Years in the History of a Muslim Shrine, 1480-1889. Prince- 
ton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991. 

McChesney, Robert D. Central Asia: Foundations of Change. 
Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1996. 

Pierce, Richard A. Russian Central Asia, 1867-1917: A Study 
in Colonial Rule. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of 
California Press, 1960. 

Saray, Mehmet. "The Russian Conquest of Central Asia." 
Central Asian Survey 1 (1982): 1-30. 

Devin DeWeese 


Central Asia played a pivotal role in the early debates about 
what it meant to be a Muslim, as the early practical experience 
of negotiating relations with the local population on the 
Central Asian frontiers left its mark in the developing con- 
sensus about the conditions for membership in the Muslim 
community, and for enjoyment of the privileges it entailed. 

Islamization in Central Asia 

Already in the eighth century there were signs of the domi- 
nance of the inclusive approach toward membership in the 
Islamic community that would prevail throughout the history 
of Islamic Central Asia. Local resentment grew over the 
unequal treatment often accorded new converts by Umayyad 
governors who, in response to declining revenues, toughened 
requirements for conversion and even rescinded the remis- 
sion of the jizya, the poll tax on non-Muslims, promised to 
prospective converts. This helped turn the region into the 
staging ground for the Abbasid revolution. In doctrinal terms 
it lent support to the view that formal affirmation of faith and 
of affiliation with the Muslim community was sufficient to be 
regarded as a member of the umma in good standing, even if 
the people thus brought into the fold were not proficient in 
practice or clear on details of doctrine. This principle, articu- 
lated in the movement of the Murji'a that gained wide 
support in Khurasan and Transoxania (Mawarannahr), was 
later enshrined in Hanafi juridical thought, which dominated 
Central Asian life from the ninth century to the twentieth 
century. It thereby shaped the process of Islamization in 
Central Asia, not only among the sedentary rural and urban 
population, but along the steppe frontiers as well, where the 
process of conversion appears to have begun in many cases 
with the establishment of social bonds between Muslim 
townspeople and nearby Turkic nomadic communities. This 
gave the latter a formal affiliation with the umma, with details 
of practice and belief to be worked out later. 

There was considerable religious diversity in Central Asia 
at the time of the Arab conquest, and it persisted in later 

1 38 

islam and the Muslim World 

Central Asian Culture and Islam 

times. Manichean communities were active in Samarkand 
until the tenth century, Christian groups can be traced into 
the fourteenth century, and Buddhism was not supplanted 
from the northeastern part of the Tarim basin until the 
fifteenth century. Despite the frequent setbacks to Islamization 
in Central Asia, the region became quite early on a major 
center of Islamic learning, literature, and art. 

Cultural Patronage and Religious Scholarship 

The full flowering of Islamic science and literature, in Persian 
and Arabic, came in the tenth century under Samanid patron- 
age. The Samanid court at Bukhara sponsored the Persian 
poets Rudaki and Daqiqi, and the compilation of the Shahname 
(Book of kings) by Firdawsi (who later enjoyed Ghaznavid 
patronage as well); Arabic poetry was also cultivated, as were 
translations from Arabic and other languages into Persian. 
The Samanids also patronized scientific endeavors, building 
on traditions that had produced pivotal works instrumental in 
the development of astronomy and mathematics in the Islamic 
world at large, and later in western Europe as well. Whereas 
in the ninth century scholars of Central Asian origin, such as 
Muhammad b. Musa al-Khwarazmi, Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi, 
and Abu 'Abbas Ahmad al-Farghani, were drawn west to 
Baghdad, Samanid patronage kept these figures' successors at 
home, so to speak, and made tenth-century Bukhara the scene 
of a remarkable intellectual synthesis marked especially by 
scholars of encyclopedic breadth. The compendium of all 
branches of scholarship known as the Mafatih al-ulum was 
produced for the Bukharan court by Abu 'Abdallah Muham- 
mad al-Khwarazmi, and an important tradition of geographi- 
cal study was sponsored by Samanid officials. The encyclopedic 
tradition shaped the work of the remarkable Khwarazmian al- 
Biruni (d. 1048), who distinguished himself in the natural 
sciences as well as in history and geography, and who later 
served the Ghaznavid sultans Mahmud and Mas'ud as well. 
The illustrious polymath Ibn Sina (d. 1037), especially re- 
nowned in medicine and philosophy, spent his formative 
years in Samanid Bukhara. 

Perhaps the most important contribution of pre-Mongol 
Central Asia to the religious culture of the larger Islamic 
world, however, lies in scholarship on hadith and in the 
juridical sciences and theology. Already in the ninth century, 
under the Tahirids, Central Asia produced several of the 
compilers of the major collections of hadiths regarded as 
authoritative throughout the Muslim world, above all the two 
pivotal traditionists, Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Bukhari (d. 
870), who lived much of his life near Samarkand, and Muslim 
b. Hajjaj of Nishapur (Ar. Nisabur) (d. 875). The growth and 
development of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, which 
came to dominate interpretation and application of the shari'a 
in much of the Ottoman-ruled world and in the Indian 
subcontinent, was largely the work of Central Asian scholars. 
Central Asia has been predominantly Hanafi in its juridical 
orientation throughout the Islamic period. There was a 

limited, but important, Shafi'i presence in some areas. The 
region of Tashkent became a bastion of the Shafi'i school 
(and produced the noted tenth-century jurist Abu Bakr Qaffal 
al-Shashi), as did the town of Taraz, while parts of Khwarazm 
were predominantly Shafi'i until well after the Mongol con- 
quest. Already before the Samanid era, however, the suprem- 
acy of the Hanafi school in Bukhara, and in the rest of 
Transoxania, was credited to the imam Abu Hafs al-Bukhari 
(d. 877), and from the tenth century to the fourteenth, 
Transoxania was by far the most productive region of the 
Muslim world in terms of the scholars and books that would 
define the Hanafi tradition. 

The Samanid era saw the formulation of the theological 
school associated with the name of Abu Mansur Muham- 
mad al-Maturidi (d. c. 944) of Samarkand. His theological 
elaborations, on a Hanafi foundation, defined the lines of 
religious thought that dominated the eastern Islamic world 
for centuries and, with the active support of Seljuk patronage, 
became firmly established in the Middle East beginning in 
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It was the era of Seljuk 
patronage, indeed, that produced many of the great classics of 
Hanafi jurisprudence in Transoxania. The central works 
include the Usui of Fakhr al-Islam 'Ali b. Muhammad al- 
Pazdawi (d. 1089), the Mabsut and Usulal-fiqh of Muhammad 
b. Ahmad al-Sarakhsi (d. c. 1096), known as "Shams al- 
A'imma," and the Hidaya of Burhan al-Din 'Ali al-Marghinani 
(d. 1 197). The activities of Hanafi jurists extended to juridical 
and civil administration as well, and hereditary transmission 
of the estates and power they were able to amass was com- 
mon. The most famous case is the family known as the Al-e 
Burhan in Bukhara, whose members were recognized as the 
chief civil authorities in the city even by the non-Muslim 

The Mongol conquest naturally meant a setback for the 
institutional foundations of Islamic religious culture, and for 
state involvement in the application and interpretation of the 
shari'a, but its impact on religious life was not as far-reaching 
as is often supposed. If the transmission of juridical traditions 
in Central Asia is considered there is little evidence of any 
substantial discontinuity coinciding with the establishment of 
Mongol rule. With the conversion of the Mongol elites to 
Islam, patronage of Islamic scholarship, literature, art, and 
architecture expanded. During the fourteenth century a num- 
ber of important Turkic religious works were produced and 
dedicated to khans and tribal chieftains of the Jochid and 
Chaghatayid realms. Timur patronized religious scholars as 
well as artisans and poets, often bringing prominent figures 
from the regions he conquered back to his capital in Samarkand, 
and scholars such as Sa'd al-Din Taftazani (d. 1390) and 'Ali 
Jurjani (d. 1413) thus worked for a time in Transoxania; on 
the other hand, some jurists found the cultivation of the 
Mongol heritage under Timur and his successors abhorrent 
and quit the Timurid realm for the Ottoman state or other 

islam and the Muslim World 


Central Asian Culture and Islam 

parts of the Muslim world. By the Timurid era, in any case, 
the Hanafi school's dominance in Central Asia had become a 
virtual monopoly. Hanafi juridical scholarship continued in 
Transoxania into the twentieth century, until the closure of 
all madrasas by the Soviets in the late 1920s. Early in the 
Uzbek period, patronage of the religious sciences took on a 
new political importance in light of the emergence of the 
Shi'ite state of Safavid Iran. The ulema of Transoxania 
supported the Uzbek rulers by declaring the Qizilbash to be 
the equivalent of infidels, thereby justifying the constant 
raiding and open warfare in Khurasan through the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. The religious frontier thus estab- 
lished was rarely an insurmountable obstacle to commerce or 
intellectual exchange, but nevertheless set the further devel- 
opment of religious culture in Central Asia apart from its 
traditional connections to Iran. 

Sufism in Central Asia 

The most important religious development of the post- 
Mongol era was the rise of Sufi communities organized 
according to the principle of the silsila or chain of spiritual 
transmission, and their emergence as important factors in 
political and economic history. The history of Sufism 
(tasawwuf) in Central Asia down to the Mongol conquest 
remains poorly studied, but it appears that by the tenth 
century a number of originally independent mystical cur- 
rents, some with local roots and some imported from outside 
Central Asia, had coalesced under the designation of tasawwuf. 
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries major new patterns of 
Sufi activity and organization appear with the career of Abu 
Sa'id b. Abil-Khayr (d. 1049) of Mayhana, in present-day 
Turkmenistan, who cultivated a high public profile in 
Ghaznavid Nishapur, and with the hereditary Sufi tradition 
of Ahmad-e Jam (d. 1141), whose natural descendants re- 
mained prominent well into the Uzbek era. 

The Mongol and Timurid periods saw the crystallization 
of Sufi traditions that would dominate religious life in Cen- 
tral Asia down to the nineteenth century, in the form of 
organized orders that emerged around silsilas traced back to 
the prophet Muhammad through prominent saints of the 
thirteenth century. One was the Kubravi tradition, whose 
eponym, Najm al-Din Kubra, died in 1221 during the Mongol 
attack on his native Khwarazm. Another was the Yasavi 
tradition, named for Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi, whose center of 
activity was the middle Syr Darya valley. The Khwajagani 
tradition emerged in the thirteenth century as well, among 
the disciples of Khwaja 'Abd al-Khaliq Ghijduvani, from a 
town near Bukhara. This tradition produced a lineage that 
became known as the Naqshbandiyya, after Baha 5 al-Din 
Naqshband of Bukhara (d. 1389). Representatives of these 
and other traditions were engaged in vigorous competition 
with one another, for court patronage and for popular sup- 
port, in the context of the political and social turmoil of 
Transoxania and Khurasan in the fourteenth century. As part 

of that competition, many groups appear to have experi- 
mented with different ways of legitimizing the authority and 
efficacy of their specific ritual and devotional practices and 
their claims of spiritual preeminence, appealing to visionary 
sanctions of various sorts, hereditary transmission, demon- 
strated spiritual results, and other signs in addition to the 
silsila, which would become the normative mode of legitimation 
by the latter fifteenth century. Some of these Sufi communi- 
ties, moreover, were actively engaged in Islamization, not in 
the sense of changing the beliefs of the Turkic nomads who 
became based in southern Central Asia through the Mongol 
invasion (though this may have happened as well), but in the 
sense of forging social and economic bonds with nomadic 
communities that were undergoing the profound dislocations 
of the Mongol era (i.e., tribal reorganization and adaptation 
to the enclosed nomadism of Transoxania and Khurasan). 

By the late fifteenth century, the Naqshbandiyya was 
emerging as the dominant Sufi tradition of Central Asia, 
largely through the efforts of Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar, a 
native of Tashkent who spent much of his life in Timurid 
Samarkand, and who exemplified the political engagement 
and the cultivation of economic power that became the 
hallmark of the Naqshbandi order. At the same time, the 
Naqshbandiyya was beginning its expansion beyond Central 
Asia, into the Ottoman Empire and the Indian subconti- 
nent. The decentralized polity of the early Uzbek era fa- 
vored intensified competition among representatives of the 
Naqshbandi, Yasavi, and Kubravi orders, but Naqshbandi 
dominance was assured by the second half of the sixteenth 
century. From then until the early eighteenth century, the 
Naqshbandiyya was a truly pervasive influence in all aspects 
of Central Asian political, economic, and cultural life. 

The eighteenth century saw important changes in relig- 
ious life, beginning with the introduction of the Mujaddidi 
(renewal) current of the Naqshbandi order, which had taken 
shape in seventeenth-century India, into Central Asia. The 
Mujaddidiyya offered an alternative source of legitimation 
for rulers seeking to counter the limitations on their power 
imposed by entrenched urban and tribal elites, and several 
Mujaddidi shaykhs were closely allied with khans of the 
Manghit and Ming dynasties in promoting religious "re- 
form" in a way that undermined traditional Sufi groups and 
the popular practices associated with them. The late eight- 
eenth and nineteenth centuries saw several reform efforts of 
this type, which entailed the condemnation of many long- 
established religious practices that had diffused from Sufi 
circles into the larger society as un-Islamic innovations. Local 
Sufi traditions survived, however, as did the local customs 
fought by the reformers, and the real blow to Central Asia's 
legacy of Sufism came only with the Soviet era. 

Pilgrimage and Shrine Culture 

One of the most characteristic features of Islamic religious 
practice in Central Asia, and one that linked the lower classes 

1 40 

islam and the Muslim World 


with the religious and social elites, was the widespread phe- 
nomenon of pilgrimage (ziyarat) to saints's shrines (mazars). 
This phenomenon was closely linked, but never entirely 
coterminous, with the spread of Sufism. Shrine-centered 
religious practice is evidenced already in the tenth century, 
and by the twelfth century there is extensive information on 
the large numbers of shrines in Khurasan in the hagiographies 
focused on the life of Abu Sa'id b. Abu 5 1-Khayr. From the 
same century dates the incident of the discovery of the 
reputed grave of 'Ali near Balkh, under the Seljuks, suggest- 
ing already the political ramifications of cultivating shrine 
traditions, as well as the compilation of the earliest guide to 
holy places in Central Asia, entitled Lattfif al-azkar, by a 
member of the Al-e Burhan of Bukhara. By the Mongol era, 
shrine culture was well entrenched, and appears to have 
played some role in the acculturation of the Mongol elites and 
ordinary nomads to the Muslim environment. Ibn Battuta 
reported that even pagan Mongols brought offerings to the 
shrine of Qutham b. Abbas, the famous martyered Shah-e 
zinda in Samarkand, and there is some evidence of shrines 
serving as portals, in effect, for passage from the world of 
Mongol administrative service to the devotional and contem- 
plative life of Sufism. In the fifteenth century, a shrine guide 
for Bukhara included a defense of the practice of ziyarat, but 
the legitimacy and efficacy of pilgrimage to saints's shrines 
were taken for granted through most of Central Asian his- 
tory. The reform efforts of the early nineteenth century 
targeted some practices associated with shrines, and the 
Soviets directed intense, and destructive, antireligious meas- 
ures against them, but in neither case were there permanent 
inroads into the public consciousness of shrines and their 
many roles. The collapse of Soviet antireligious efforts in the 
late 1980s led to a remarkable revival of ziyarat, including the 
reconstruction of numerous shrines as well as the "rediscov- 
ery," by quite traditional methods (not unlike those that 
revealed Ali's burial place in the twelfth century), of long- 
forgotten sites. 

The centrality of shrine-centered religious practice in the 
daily lives, and in connection with the most pressing human 
needs, of the majority of Central Asian Muslims is a major, 
and visible, part of the complex of normative religious cus- 
toms that characterized traditional life in Islamic Central 
Asia. Other elements of this complex are more difficult to 
trace in literary sources from earlier centuries, but it seems 
clear that, during the Uzbek period at least, religious trends 
that were evident already in the Mongol and Timurid eras 
were solidified and became the standard features of tradi- 
tional Islamic life down to the social and religious upheavals 
launched by the Soviet regime in Central Asia during the late 
1920s. Some of these elements include the continuation of 
madrasa-based juridical education in such cities as Bukhara, 
which continued to attract students from among Muslim 
communities in the Russian empire as well as from India and 

Afghanistan; the expansion of Muslim education and literacy 
into the nomadic regions, especially among the Qazaqs; the 
incorporation of shrines and sacred lineages into the religious 
practice, social structure, and epic traditions of the nomads; 
the prominence of hereditary religious and social prestige in 
families linked to eminent local jurists and, especially, Sufi 
saints of the past; the permeation of kinship structures and 
communal life by elements of Sufi practice and thought; and 
the expansion of religiously defined and regulated occupa- 
tional organizations in urban and rural environments, inte- 
grating the basic elements of craft production into a spiritual 
worldview that infused labor and its fruits with sacrality and 
religious meaning. 

See also Central Asia, Islam in; Maturidi, al-; Pilgrim- 
age: Ziyara; Tasawwuf. 


Basilov, V. N. "Honour Groups in Traditional Turkmenian 
Society." In Islam in Tribal Societies: From the Atlas to the 
Indus. Edited by Akbar S. Ahmed and David M. Hart. 
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. 

Bulliet, Richard W. The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in 
Medieval Islamic Social History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard 
University Press, 1972. 

Gross, J-Ann, and Urunbaev, Asom. The Letters of Khwaja 
c Ubayd Allah Ahrar and His Associates. Leiden: Brill, 2002. 

Madelung, Wilferd. "The Spread of Maturidism and the 
Turks." In Adas do IV Congresso des Estudos Arabes et 
Islamicos, Coimbra-Lisboa. Leiden: Brill, 1971. 

Malamud, Margaret. "Sufi Organizations and Structures of 
Authority in Medieval Nishapur." International Journal of 
Middle East Studies 26 (1994): 427-442. 

Sviri, Sara. "Hakim Tirmidhi and the Malmati Movement in 
Early Sufism." In Classical Persian Sufism: From its Origins 
to Rumi. Edited by Leonard Lewisohn. London and New 
York: Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1993. 

Devin DeWeese 


Childhood in Islam, like childhood in any great religious 
tradition, is seen generally as a period of education and 
training, a time of socialization for the future adult. The child 
is seen as the crucial generational link in both the religious 
community and the family unit, the key to its continuation, 
the living person that ties the present to the past. The idea of 
childhood, the place of the child, the duties of the child are 
basic issues and have been since the beginning of Islam. 
Childhood ends in a formal sense at the age of puberty, when 

islam and the Muslim World 



performance of the religious duties (Five Pillars) marks the 
ritual passage into the early stages of adulthood. 

Socialization of the child takes place primarily within the 
family unit, the home, and the father and mother are ulti- 
mately responsible for their offspring. However, grandpar- 
ents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are also expected to participate 
in a child's rearing and usually did so in the past. Religious 
socialization also takes place in the home (for boys and girls) 
and in the mosque (for boys) but also in the Qur'anic school 
or kuttab (for boys and girls). A knowledge of the Qur'an is 
deemed necessary for a child's religious development, and 
most parents, even the poorest, try to send their sons and 
daughters to the kuttab. 

Socialization for values of the society begins even earlier, 
as soon as a child is conscious of others. These values vary 
somewhat according to geographical, historic, and economic 
differences within Muslim communities but in general they 
are designed to develop 'aql or reason in the child and to make 
the child mu'addab, one who is polite and disciplined. In the 
Arab world, a child is taught respect for food, for religion, for 
the kin group, hospitality to guests, and, above all, respect for 
and obedience to the authority of the father. 

Most Muslim societies might be classified as patrilineal 
(the exception being parts of Southeast Asia, in which a 
matrilineal descent is observed). In the reckoning of one's 
descent in patrilineal societies, one's kin-group membership 
passes through the male line on the father's side. This means 
that all children retain their father's name throughout their 
lives, but a daughter, unlike a son, cannot pass membership 
on to her children. Male and female descendants inherit from 
the father, according to the specifics of Islamic legal codes. 
This hierarchical organization means that the oldest male, 
father or son, holds authority over his descendants, but is also 
the primary economic provider for the group, and thus 
controller of the group's economic resources. In exchange, 
the male head of household is expected not only to provide 
for but to protect the group, including sons and daughters, 
throughout their lives. 

The period of childhood socialization is marked by ritual 
events, both religious and secular: ceremonies surrounding 
birth and naming; circumcision, for all boys and some girls; 
graduation from Qur'anic school, particularly for boys; and 
finally marriage. Marriage is the crucial step in tying individ- 
ual members to the group, and the birth of children confers 
on the newly united pair full membership in the family unit 
and in Islam. "When a man has children he has fulfilled half 
his religion, so let him fear God for the remaining half," states 
one of the hadiths of the prophet Muhammad. 

Further, throughout childhood, there is strong socializa- 
tion for future roles in the family and the Muslim community; 

from a very early age, children are given responsibilities. 
Girls are expected to help in the home and care for siblings; 
boys may be asked to help in family business or on their 
father's farm. This traditional picture, in practice, is chang- 
ing, as people in the Muslim world become more mobile, and 
as the family group becomes more attenuated. The father is 
still seen as head of household, but the mother frequently 
shares economic responsibilities by working outside the home, 
and this places stress on family expectations for both sons and 
daughters. Free public education has supplemented, but not 
replaced, Qur'anic education for all children. 

Still, the basic approach to childhood as a time of learning 
rather than as a carefree time for play remains. To become a 
full member of the Islamic community, a child is expected to 
learn the Qur'an, respect parents, and gradually assume 
responsibilities within the family and the religious commu- 
nity, so that the untutored child becomes the disciplined 
Muslim adult. 

See also Circumcision; Education; Gender; Marriage. 

Ghazzali, Muhammad ibn Muhammad Abi Hamid al-. Ayyuha 
al-Walad. Cairo: Dar alT'tisam, 1983. 

WarnockFernea, Elizabeth, ed. Children in the Muslim Middle 
East. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995. 

Elizabeth Warnock Eernea 

CHINA See East Asia, Islam in 


The history of Christian-Muslim or alternatively Muslim- 
Christian relations began at the inception of Islam in the first 
half of the sixth century of the Common Era. As Islam began 
to spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula soon after the death 
of the prophet Muhammad in 632 c.e., the encounter be- 
tween Muslims and Christians entered a new phase of mili- 
tary, political, and social interactions. A century later, while 
these kinds of interaction continued along the already far- 
flung borders of the new Islamic empire spreading from 
Spain to the Indus river, new patterns emerged within both 
majority Christian and majority Muslim polities. They re- 
flected the weight of different theological and political con- 
texts on daily social life, leading to a variety of mostly 
polemical and apologetic stances that Christians and Muslims 

1 42 

islam and the Muslim World 

Christianity and Islam 

developed regarding each other. This religious and political 
mix came to a head during the period of the major Crusades 
(twelfth to thirteenth centuries c.e.), creating the subsequent 
dominant paradigm in Christian-Muslim relations, the re- 
percussions of which are still felt to this day, and especially 
since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. But not all 
historical periods or geographical locations were the same; 
pockets of mutually beneficial encounters existed here and 
there on both sides of the transient political borders. More- 
over, the history of Christian-Muslim relations has not un- 
folded in isolation from other religious and, more recently, 
nonreligious worldviews. 

The Period of the Prophet Muhammad's Life: Circa 
570-632 c.e. 

The history of the prophet Muhammad's life is difficult to 
ascertain with precision. Through a careful examination of 
pre-Islamic poems, the Qur'an, early hadith, and biogra- 
phies, all of which have entailed in the past century serious 
debates as to their validity as historical sources, it is neverthe- 
less possible to suggest a likely course of events in this first 
period of Muslim-Christian encounters. Prior to 610 c.e., the 
year when the prophet Muhammad received the first Qur'anic 
revelation, his encounters with Christians probably took 
place during his caravan trips into greater Syria, as the 
tradition of his meeting with the Christian monk Bahira 
would indicate. There may also have been occasional encoun- 
ters with Christians of unknown theological leanings passing 
through Mecca. The biography of the prophet Muhammad 
mentions other kinds of encounters, not all of which are 
historically verifiable. For instance, soon after 610 c.e., the 
Prophet met with Waraqa ibn Nawfal, who was a cousin of 
the Prophet's wife Khadija. Waraqa ibn Nawfal was a Chris- 
tian scholar who confirmed the Prophet's mission. Another 
encounter is said to have occurred in 615 c.e., when early 
converts to Islam migrated for a short while to the Christian 
kingdom of Axum (Abyssinia). In 628 c.e., a delegation of 
Christians from the town of Najran in South Arabia came to 
visit the Prophet in Medina, and sometime before the Prophet 
died, in 632 c.e., he would have sent letters to existing rulers 
such as the Byzantine emperor Heraclius and the Negus of 
Axum, as well as the Sassanian emperor Chosroes. These five 
instances demonstrate a variety of possible or imagined en- 
counters, all of which have been used for various goals in 
Muslim-Christian relations, both at the time of their produc- 
tion and in subsequent interpretations. 

The varieties of Qur'anic passages addressing Christians 
directly or indirectly (as people of the book, together with 
Jews, for example) reflect the transforming nature of the 
prophet Muhammad's encounters with them as his own 
status changed over time. The same applies to the other two 
religious systems he interacted with in Arabia: Judaism and 
Meccan polytheism. In all three cases, the variation in tone, 
from tolerance to polemics, seems to reflect the extent to 

which his prophetic message was being accepted or rejected 
at each moment of his reception of Qur'anic revelations, a 
process that lasted about twenty-three years. In terms of 
Christianity in particular, there is at best a conditional ac- 
ceptance of Christians, and at worst a judgment associating 
them to both shirk (polytheism/idolatry) and kufr (unbelief). 
The various Christian voices referred to in the Qur'an are, for 
the most part, not reflective of the major Christian theologies 
that Muslims would come to encounter soon after the death 
of the prophet Muhammad, in 632 c.e. These misperceptions 
of mainstream, seventh-century Christian theologies, by be- 
ing preserved in the Qur'an, negatively predisposed subse- 
quent generations of Muslim interpreters of Christianity. A 
contextual sociopolitical reading of these various passages, 
harking back in part to the old Islamic hermeneutical princi- 
ple of abrogation (in which later Qur'anic revelations must 
take precedence over prior ones), is one way to make sense of 
their variety and, at times, contradictory nature. This is 
especially important when the passages are juxtaposed 
ahistorically, either within the period of the Prophet's life or 
for contemporary ideological purposes. 

The First Islamic Conquests: 632-750 c.e. 

During the Islamic empire's first phase of rapid expansion, 
between 632 and 750 c.e., two numerically important relig- 
ious systems become incorporated under Muslim politi- 
cal control: Eastern Christianity, both Chalcedonian (i.e., 
Byzantinian) and non-Chalcedonian (especially Monophysite 
and Nestorian), and Zoroastrianism. By then, Jews consti- 
tuted only a small minority of the population scattered across 
the newly conquered areas, and did not represent any political 
threat. The first to try to make sense of Islam as the religion of 
their new Muslim rulers were Eastern Christians, since West- 
ern (that is, Roman) Christians were not affected directly by 
the Muslim conquests until the later part of this period, and 
mostly in the Iberian Peninsula lying at the Western fringe of 
the new Islamic empire. In all cases, however, Christians 
perceived Islam within their own respective theological 
worldviews. As early as around 660 c.e., the arrival of Arab 
Muslims is interpreted by the Monophysite Armenian bishop 
Sebeos as a judgment of God in light of Genesis 21:12-13, 
according to which Muslims are identified as Arab descen- 
dants of Hagar and her son Ishmael, who were promised by 
God to become a great nation. This theological interpre- 
tation was linked to a political situation wherein most 
Monophysite and Nestorian Christians welcomed the arrival 
of Arab Muslims, for it put an end to their political subordina- 
tion to the Byzantine Christians. As the new rulers took 
control over the course of the eighth century, new interpreta- 
tions developed. For both Monophysites and Nestorians, 
Islam came to represent a judgment on the part of God 
against those who accepted the Christological definitions of 
the Council of Chalcedon (451 c.e.). As for those Eastern 
Christians under Muslim control who continued to support 

islam and the Muslim World 

Christianity and Islam 

The Tomb of St. John the Baptist in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, which was built on an earlier church, is said to house the skull of )ohn 
the Baptist, valued by both Muslims and Christians. Over the centuries, despite much polemical opposition and violence, Christianity and Islam 
maintain many important similarities and have shared many positive encounters. Art Archive/Dacu Orti 

the Byzantine or Chalcedonian theology, such as the Melkite 
John of Damascus, they came to describe Islam as a Chris- 
tian heresy. 

The early Muslim conquerors followed the momentum 
built toward the end of the Prophet's life: The first phase of 
interaction with Christians (and Jews) was confrontational, 
and all Jews and Christians were expelled from the Arabian 
Peninsula. It was not until the later seventh and eighth 
centuries, when Muslim political conquests began to take 
root in majority Christian and Zoroastrian areas, that more 
lenient attitudes and practices developed, legitimized by a 
retrieval of the earlier and more tolerant Qur'anic passages 
toward Christians in particular. These interpretations and 
legal elaborations were needed to formalize the relationship 
of Muslims to the Christians and Zoroastrians who formed a 
majority of the population in their respective western and 
eastern halves of the new (Islamic) Umayyad Empire (661-750 
c.e.). This new political context also explains why, to the 
theological concept of the people of the book (ahl al-kitab), 
used by the prophet Muhammad to link the Jewish, Chris- 
tian, and Islamic notions of divine revelation, was added a 
parallel and pragmatic concept of the people of the protective 

covenant (ahl al-dhimma), erroneously understood by some 
today as second-class citizenship. This concept was based on 
two Qur'anic references (9:8, 10) initially referring to idola- 
ters in general. This covenantal concept helped regulate 
Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians as political minorities who 
received protection from ruling Muslims in exchange for poll 
taxes. Yet, the situation and opportunities for advancement 
varied tremendously from one individual Christian to an- 
other, and from one geographical area or historical period to 
another. For example, many educated Christians reached 
high positions of power during the Umayyad and subsequent 
Abbasid dynasties, especially in the fields of medicine, phi- 
losophy, and administration. 

The Stabilizing of Relations: 750-1085 c.e. 

In the three centuries that followed the takeover of the 
central Islamic lands by the Abbasid dynasty in 750 c.e., 
the Islamic world rose to its apex of cultural, religious, 
and political efflorescence. This par islamica resulted in much 
tolerance toward its internal religious minorities in gen- 
eral, albeit within an Islamic dhimmi paradigm of power. 
The translation of mostly Greek and Syriac philosophi- 
cal and scientific works into Arabic during the middle of 

1 44 

islam and the Muslim World 

Christianity and Islam 

the ninth century culminated in the establishment of Caliph 
Al-Ma'mun's (786-833 c.e.) bayt al-hikma (house of wis- 
dom). It was later directed by the Nestorian Christian trans- 
lator Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873 c.e.). As a positive 
example of Christian-Muslim relations at the center of the 
Abbasid Empire, the bayt al-hikma internally promoted intel- 
lectual pursuits of truth and resulted in a striking degree of 
interreligious tolerance and mutual influence, especially among 
the educated elite. Externally, as the empire's borders contin- 
ued to be disputed, a pronounced antagonism arose among 
both Western European and Byzantine Christians, who feared 
the power of the then-greatest empire on earth. Among 
Western Christians, the most obvious development was linked 
to the slow Reconquista efforts in Spain that culminated in the 
Christian takeover of Toledo in 1085. This movement was 
fueled by very negative anti-Islamic rhetoric. As for Byzan- 
tine Christians, the continuing warfare also helped sustain 
more polemical views of Islam, building on the earlier notion 
that Islam was a heresy with the difference that authors now 
had access to original Qur'anic and other Arabic writings (or 
translations of them) to sustain their polemical arguments. 
Yet, some Byzantine writers were more moderate, acknowl- 
edging some similarities between Christianity and Islam, 
such as the common basis in monotheism. 

During the same period, an equally diverse spectrum of 
views on Christianity emerged among Muslims. While there 
was better access to mainline Christian theologies, greater 
knowledge did not always result in greater tolerance and 
understanding. Many factors explain the rise in Muslim 
polemical attitudes toward Christianity: changing demo- 
graphic realities, wherein Christians were still the majority in 
many central areas of Islamdom, but the balance of numerical 
power was gradually shifting in favor of Islam; changing 
theological realities within the Muslim community, includ- 
ing the search for Islamic legitimization in Biblical roots; 
social competition, especially in times of economic difficul- 
ties; and the need to defend Islam against other major 
worldviews. But not all Muslim perceptions of Christianity 
were polemical, and not all Muslim authors lived in situations 
where the above factors were equally present. As different 
Christian theologies produced different perceptions of Islam, 
so did different Islamic theologies (Mu'tazili, Ash'ari, Maturidi, 
traditionalist, Sufi, and so on) produce different perceptions 
of Christianity. 

The Period of the Crusades: 1085-1300 c.e. 

After the fall of Toledo in 1085, Western Christians became 
embolded by the successes of what they have called the 
Reconquista. Their success was in sharp contrast to the Eastern 
Byzantine Christians, who had suffered great territorial losses 
at the hands of the Muslim Seljuk Turks in the aftermath of 
the battle of Manzikert in 1071. A decade later, Byzantine 
emperor Alexius (r. 1081-1118) took power and later re- 
quested help from Western Christians to fight back the 
Muslims. Pope Urban II responded with the preaching of the 

islam and the Muslim World 

first Crusades in Clermont, France, in 1095. By the fall of 
1096, a people's expedition was galvanized by Peter the 
Hermit. Numbering about twenty thousand, it ended up 
disintegrating before leaving Europe. In its wake, however, it 
left a trail of suffering. Many lives were lost, and whole Jewish 
communities were exterminated. 

At the same time, an amalgamation of five armies from 
different parts of Western Europe responded to the call: they 
numbered between fifty and sixty thousand. They crossed 
over into Asia Minor in 1097, captured Antioch in 1098, and 
conquered Jerusalem on 15 July 1099. The Christian popula- 
tion of Jerusalem had been expelled from that city in fear of 
treachery just prior to the Crusader conquest. The Muslim 
governor, together with some of his military garrison, was 
allowed safe-conduct at the moment of the conquest, but the 
remaining Muslim and small Jewish civilian populations were 
massacred: More than forty thousand lives were taken. In 
contrast, when Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem in 1187, no 
blood was spilled upon entering the city. By 1302, the 
Crusaders had gradually lost control of all their small princi- 
palities on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. 

In contrast to this military approach to Muslim-Christian 
relations, smaller but significant rapprochements were taking 
place from the eleventh century onwards. They allowed for 
the transmission of knowledge from the Islamic world into 
Christian Europe, with the translation of Arabic works into 
Latin. This began primarily in Spain and Sicily with the 
rediscovery of the ancient Greek heritage, now greatly en- 
riched by centuries of Muslim commentaries. This move- 
ment took place in both older monasteries and newer 
educational establishments such as language schools, col- 
leges, and universities, first in Bologna, Salerno, Montpellier, 
Paris, and Oxford prior to 1200 With this rapid increase in 
efforts to understand the Muslim world, with key figures such 
as the Italian Francis of Assisi (1182-1226 c.e.) and the 
Spaniard Raymond Lull (c. 1232-13 16 c.e.), important seeds 
of the later fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European Ren- 
aissance were sown in the very midst of an internal Christian 
resistance to the Crusades. 

The New Balance of Power: 1300-1500 c.e. 

The defeat of the first Crusades did not end the desires of 
European Christians for expansion, nor did it stop certain 
Muslims from continuing their own. The Reconquista gradu- 
ally expanded to include the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, 
ending with the fall of the last Muslim kingdom in Grenada in 
1492. At the other end of the Mediterranean, Ottoman 
expansion crossed over into southeastern Europe in 1354, 
eventually ending the Byzantine Empire with the capture of 
Constantinople in 1453. They won the battle of Kosovo in 
1389 and Nicopolis in 1396, making them rulers of the 
Balkans. The expansion stopped at the gates of Vienna in 
1529. Asimilar siege tookplace again in 1683, demonstrating 

1 45 

Christianity and Islam 

the strong Ottoman pressures on Central and Eastern Europe 
for over a century and a half. 

At the same time, by the end of the fifteenth century, the 
southwestern Europeans, especially the Spaniards and Portu- 
guese, gained new strategic power through three combined 
discoveries: Christopher Columbus's "discovery" of the Ameri- 
cas in 1 492 ; Vasco de Gama's navigation around Africa via the 
Cape of Good Hope in 1497, which opened up a new spice 
trading route to Southeast Asia that avoided central Muslim 
lands; and Magellan and Pigafetta's westward circumnavigation 
of the earth by 1 522 c.e. These discoveries suddenly enlarged 
the predominantly Mediterranean geographical scope of the 
first eight centuries of Christian-Muslim interactions into 
the beginnings of a global one, adding new Christian mis- 
sionary pressures, especially in West Africa as well as South 
and Southeast Asia, where Muslim rule had been gradually 
expanding for centuries. 

The New European Christian Rise in Power: 
1500-1800 c.e. 

In the sixteenth century, the rapid takeover of ocean routes 
worldwide ushered in a new age of European Christian 
power. It resulted in a gradual encroachment on increasingly 
vast areas of inhabited lands through a forceful combination 
of military, political, economic, and missionary activities. 
While these new, long-term processes were unfolding on the 
peripheries, the Ottoman Empire continued to be a threat to 
the central and eastern European Christian powers and the 
Mughal Empire slowed down European incursions into 
South Asia. 

In between the Ottoman and Mughal empires, the Safavid 
Empire (based primarily in Iran) vied for control of central 
Islamic lands. Dynamic internal Muslim transformations 
continued to flower along traditional lines, both within those 
three centralized empires and on many peripheries of Islamic 
expansion, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and in southeast- 
ern and northwestern Asia. However, few understood the 
significance of the new technologies that led to the magni- 
tude of the European encroachment along many peripheries 
of the Islamic world and their disruption of traditional inter- 
nal sources of economic revenues, such as the spice and silk 
roads, due to new ocean trade routes. These technological 
threats were also ideational and symbolic, as with the new 
missionary efforts to spread worldwide the already embattled 
forms of European Christianity, even when conducted with 
greater sensitivity to local customs, as exemplified in the 
efforts of the first Jesuits in the later half of the sixteenth 
century in India, China, and Japan. These combined proc- 
esses would subsequently increase in speed and depth, leading 
to tension and confrontation between Muslims and Chris- 
tians worldwide on a much wider scale. 

The Period of European Colonialism and Western 
Imperialism: 1800 onward 

With Napoleon's brief conquest of Egypt in 1 898, Europeans 
embarked on a political and military trajectory that would 

gradually make them colonial masters not only over majority 
Muslim countries, but over almost the entire planet. While 
this surge in European colonialism was particularly successful 
among the British, French, Dutch, and Russians, who divided 
up among themselves most of the Islamic world, it still 
remained strong among the older imperial powers of Spain 
and Portugal, while the newer national polities of Italy, 
Germany, and Belgium also vied for their share of the world. 
A few Muslim areas retained a degree of political indepen- 
dence, such as what later became Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and 
(to a lesser degree) Iran, which had to balance pressures from 
the British in the south and the Russians in the north, a 
prelude to the later pressures of the Cold War by their 
respective successors the United States and the Soviet Union. 
Thanks in part to large oil revenues, both Saudi Arabia and 
Iran would later become the launching pads for two dis- 
tinct, transnational, and anti-Western Islamic political ide- 
ologies confronting Western imperialism: Khomeinism and 
Wahhabism. The first began with the Iranian Revolution of 
1979 and the latter produced as one of its offshoots the 
extremist al-Qa c ida, with the resulting terrorist attacks on key 
symbols of American global hegemony on 1 1 September 2001. 

Intertwined with the growing European colonialism of 
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Christian 
missionary movement continued unabated, although it was 
now linked to a civilizational project of modernity under- 
stood as democracy and the rule of law within new nation- 
state structures. This European colonial project legitimized 
in the eyes of most Europeans their own increased militariza- 
tion at home and the interconnected colonial control of 
peoples worldwide. European colonialism eventually frag- 
mented the world, including the Islamic parts of it, into 
unavoidable yet often unmanageable semblances of nation- 
states. This project had to do as much with older competing 
Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian identities as 
with newer, non-Christian philosophies (deism, atheism, 
utilitarianism, materialism, human rights, and the like), a 
point often misunderstood by many generations of Muslims 
who have reduced the modern West to Christianity. In turn, 
many Westerners, whether religious or not, have themselves 
simplistically essentialized the complexities of the Islamic 
world, wanting to believe that it is quintessentially un- 
modernizable. They have forgotten how many centuries it 
took Western Catholic and Protestant Christianities to come 
to terms with modernity, and fail to consider the ongoing 
struggles of parts of the Orthodox Christian world, not to 
mention vast numbers of Christians in economically disad- 
vantaged areas around the world. 

Orientalism is a long-standing, scientific tradition of in- 
terpretation of the Other developed in Western universities 
especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to ex- 
plain "Eastern" realities from Morocco to Japan. This tradi- 
tion reinforced the stereotype of Islam as unmodernizable. 
Orientalists only too often contributed to the rationale for 

1 46 

islam and the Muslim World 

Christianity and Islam 

colonial domination of the world, especially in Muslim areas. 
This explains why, since the late nineteenth century, many 
Muslims have become suspicious of efforts on the part of 
non-Muslim Westerners to interpret Islam. However, with 
increased migrations of Muslims from majority Muslim coun- 
tries to the West and the increase in conversions to Islam 
among both European and U.S. citizens, especially among 
African Americans, together with the increased Westernization 
of important segments of majority Muslim countries, new 
Islamized Western and secularized Islamic identities have 
emerged in the last half century challenging the existence of a 
West/Islam dichotomy as was promulgated by orientalist 

In addition to colonialist and orientalist discourses, the 
already complex internal Western dynamic spawned new 
competing economic and political ideologies, such as liberal- 
ism, socialism, and communism, eventually spreading the 
Cold War (1950-1989) unto the rest of the non-Western 
world, into newly formed nations that were already strug- 
gling to define themselves in the new, postcolonial era. This 
resulted in various hybrid forms of political ideology, such as 
pan-Arabism, Indonesian pancasila ideology, and the crea- 
tion of Pakistan along ethnic rather than religious lines (even 
though Pakistani identity was initially the effort to transform 
a South Asian Muslim identity into a national/ethnic one). 
For every national case, the Islamic heritage in majority 
Muslim countries was problematized differently, resulting in 
a variety of Muslim and Islamic nationalisms that rivals the 
variety of secular and Christo-secular Western nationalisms. 

The greatest force underlying the modernization (often 
reduced to Westernization) process ensuing from Western 
colonialism and post-colonial economic imperialism, most 
recently known under the concept of globalization, has come 
in the name of science and has been linked to a philosophy of 
positivism. These combined claims to truth have reinforced 
the various new technologies with which they are associated. 
While most Muslims have adopted Western scientific educa- 
tion as part of various nationalist educational projects, this 
ever-rapid increase in scientific knowledge has continued to 
provide a secularizing West its military and political superi- 
ority, undermining traditional faith-claims both at the center 
of power in the West and on the Muslim and other peripheries. 

A resistance to positivist science and liberal Christianity 
first developed in the United States in the second decade of 
the twentieth century, taking the form of Christian Protes- 
tant fundamentalism. Fundamentalism later spread around 
the world under different names and varying forms, resulting 
in the ideologization of anticolonial and, later, anti-imperialist 
religious discourses. Eventually it fueled a few religious 
revolutions and coup d'etats, the most memorable being that 
of Iran in 1979. During the late 1980s and 1990s, another 
form of accommodation has led to the creation of a network 
of scholars engaged in the Islamization of Knowledge project. 

But by the end of the Cold War in 1989, Westerners and 
Muslims had lost a common enemy in communism; they 
could now turn more directly onto each other, in what is still 
often reduced to a simplistic West versus Islam dichotomy. 

In contrast, mostly among educated and cosmopolitan 
elites, the late twentieth century witnessed the emergence of 
a genuine Christian-Muslim or Muslim-Christian dialogue. 
This new movement stressed the importance of listening to 
one another and learning from each other's tradition. This 
process, carefully attuned to ensuring a better power dynamic 
between its participants, has often led to common statements 
by Muslims and Christians on a variety of issues. Sponsored 
at times by international religious organizations, govern- 
ments, or non-governmental organizations, these dialogues 
have opened up new avenues of understanding that aim to 
respect the differences and have built on the similarities that 
exist among Christians and Muslims. While participating in 
dialogue does not require a liberal theological point of view, it 
tends to attract religious people with such a perspective, often 
limiting the potential impact this approach could have on 
transforming the history of Christian-Muslims relations to- 
ward one of greater understanding and cooperation given the 
wealth of information now available on their shared history. 


The history of Muslim-Christian relations includes a wide 
spectrum of interactions encompassing all aspects of human 
life. Two extreme interpretations need to be avoided because 
they are wrong historically. The first is reductionism. It is 
dangerous to reduce this complex history to one of endless 
confrontations between essentialized conceptualizations of 
Islam and Christianity, treating them as mutually exclusive 
realities that turn every Christian and Muslim into unavoid- 
able enemies. The examples of constructive interactions 
between Muslims and Christians in both times of peace and 
war are too numerous to justify oversimplifying this history 
into one of military confrontations. The second danger is to 
deny the complex power dynamics that have always existed 
among Christians, Muslims, and others within Christian and 
post-Christian as well as Muslim and other societies. These 
dynamics reveal both destructive and constructive behaviors 
and patterns, as well as a spectrum of beliefs that range from 
inclusive to exclusive and are held by both sides in what have 
become the two numerically largest religious identities today. 
Knowing this history requires a sensitive understanding at 
the dawn of a yet insecure future for the human race. 

See also Balkans, Islam in the; Crusades; European 
Culture and Islam; Islam and Other Religions; Juda- 
ism and Islam; Religious Beliefs. 


Bamyeh, Mohammed A. The Social Origins of Islam: Mind, 
Economy, Discourse. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota 
Press, 1999. 

islam and the Muslim World 



The minaret of a mosque and the belltowers of Christian churches 
cohabitate in Bethlehem on the West Bank. Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/ 
Wide World Photos 

Borrmans, Maurice. Guidelines for Dialogue between Christians 
and Muslims. Translated by R. Marston Speight. Mahwah, 
N.J.: Paulist Press, 1990. 

Brown, Stuart E., ed. Meeting in Faith: Twenty Years of 
Christian-Muslim Conversations Sponsored by the World Council 
of Churches. Geneva: W.C.C. Publications, 1989. 

Daniel, Norman. Islam and the West: The Making of an Image. 
Oxford, U.K.: Oneworld, 1993. 

Goddard, Hugh. A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. 
Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000. 

Goddard, Hugh. Christians and Muslims: From Double Stan- 
dards to Mutual Understanding. Richmond, U.K.: 
Curzon, 1995. 

Haddad, Juliette Nasri, ed. Declarations Communes Islamo- 
Chretiennes: 1954-1995. Beyrouth: Dar el-Machreq, 1997. 

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Haddad, Wadi Saidan, eds. 
Christian-Muslim Encounters. Gainesville: University Press 
of Florida, 1995. 

Hillenbrand, C. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. Edinburgh: 
Edinburgh University Press, 1999. 

Laiou, Angeliki E., and Mottahedeh, Roy Parviz, eds. The 
Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim 
World. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research 
Library and Collection, 2001. 

Ridgeon, Lloyd, ed. Islamic Interpretations of Christianity. New 

York: St Martin's Press, 2001 . 
Runciman, S. A History of the Crusades. Cambridge, U.K.: 

Cambridge University Press, 1951. 

Waardenburg, Jacques, ed. Muslim-Christian Perceptions of 
Dialogue Today: Experiences and Expectations. Leuven: 
Peeters, 2000. 

Zebiri, Kate. Muslims and Christians Face to Face. Oxford, 
U.K.: Oneworld, 1997. 

Patrice C. Brodeur 


The role of circumcision (khitan) in Islamic society has 
shifted dramatically due to issues of gender, custom, and law. 
Nowhere mentioned in the Qur'an, circumcision was a com- 
mon practice in Arabia that was incorporated into the Islamic 
legal system to varying degrees and for a variety of reasons. 
Both Josephus and Philo of Alexandria note its presence in 
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia prior to the coming of Islam. 
Philo observes that Egyptian males and females were circum- 
cised after the fourteenth year before marriage, while Josephus 
claims the Arabs performed it just after the thirteenth year, at 
the time Ishmael was circumcised. 

Legally, Islamic scholars debate whether the practice is 
obligatory or sunna (customary), or whether its obligations be 
extended solely to males, or to males and females. Al-Shafi c a 
considers the practice an equal duty for both sexes, while 
Malik and others consider it sunna for males. The disagree- 
ment over gender requirements continues in current cultural 
practice. Female circumcision is embraced in southern Egypt, 
Ethiopia, Somalia, the Sudan, and West Africa, and a minor 
form is practiced by Southeast Asian Shafi'is in Indonesia and 
Malaysia. It is condemned by many Muslims and non-Muslims 
who reside outside of these areas, mostly for humanitarian 
and health reasons. Many legal schools also deliberate the 
time a circumcision should be performed. Some recommend 
the seventh day following the birth of a male child, while 
others propose its performance after a child reaches his tenth 
birthday. Again, such legal variation is mirrored in contem- 
porary practice. In the Middle East, circumcision occurs 
between the ages of two and seven, while in Europe and 
North Africa male Muslims are circumcised in hospitals 
immediately after birth. Suffice it to say that today there is no 
standard orthodox practice when it comes to circumcision. 
Not all Muslims practice circumcision (specifically, those in 
China), and many who do adhere to vastly different cul- 
tural norms. 

The justifications for circumcision also vary dramatically 
in Islamic sources and practice. Many hadith link circumci- 
sion with purification (tahara). It often appears in lists that 
include other acts of general hygiene, including the clipping 

1 48 

islam and the Muslim World 


of nails, the use of the tooth-stick, the trimming of mus- 
taches, and the depilation of both the armpits and the pubic 
region. Some hadith also link the practice back to Ibrahim, 
who circumcised himself at the age of eighty with a pickax. 
Unlike Judaism, Islam does not view circumcision as the sole 
signifier of the covenant between God and his people. Cir- 
cumcision stands as just one of many tests Ibrahim performed 
to demonstrate his adherence to the true faith. Many Mus- 
lims bypass these exegetical intricacies and simply take the 
view that Muhammad mandated the practice. The legal and 
customary support for circumcising just prior to the onset of 
puberty also suggests the practice was performed as a rite of 
passage, one that would ready an individual for marriage. As a 
rite of passage, male circumcision ceremonies in places like 
Java and Morocco are accompanied with purificatory rites, 
sacrifices, and feasts. When conducted today, female circum- 
cision is a much less celebratory act, rarely accompanied by 
such festivities. To interpret circumcision in Islam from a 
religious studies standpoint, the manipulation of the genitalia 
exemplifies ultimate divine control over one's human, pro- 
creative instincts. Thus one cut symbolizes a total submis- 
sion to God. 

See also c Ada; Body, Significance of; Gender; Law. 

Bloch, Maurice. From Blessing to Violence: History and Ideology 
in the Circumcision Ritual of the Merina of Madagascar. 
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 

Kister, M.J. Concepts and Ideas at the Dawn of Islam. Aldershot, 
Great Britain; Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate/Varioram, 1997. 

Robinson, Francis. Atlas of the Islamic World Since 1 500. New 
York: Facts On File, 1982. 

Kathryn Kueny 


Islamic dress has for centuries been used to symbolize purity, 
mark status or formal roles, distinguish believer from 
nonbeliever, and identify gender. Traditionally Muslims were 
admonished to dress modestly in garments that did not reveal 
the body silhouette and extremities. Head coverings were 
also expected. However, dress forms vary in different periods 
and regions, as does interpretation of and adherence to 
Muslim dress codes. The most prominent forms of Near 
Eastern dress can be classified as Arab or Turkic/Iranian in 
form, with degrees of blending between the two modes 
occurring where interaction between these cultures has been 

Arab dress can be seen from northern Syria to North 
Africa. The basic dress of both men and women is based on 
the simple tunic, an unfitted garment pulled on over the head, 

common in the region since Roman times (qamis or thawb). 
The earlier form of Arab dress, unseamed wrapped garments 
(izar and rida), have survived as the consecrated garments 
(ihram) worn by pilgrims to Mecca. The thawb is well suited 
to desert heat, providing both protection from the sun and 
ventilation. A wide unfitted mantle (jallaba or aba; hooded 
burnus) may also be worn. Typical materials are cotton or fine 
wool, with dense silk embroidery applied to necklines and 
borders. To this might be added sashes and shawls. Men's 
head coverings might be a turban, or a simple shawl bound at 
the forehead, arranged on the head according to status, 
affiliation, local usage, or practical need. Turbans are the 
most well known of Muslim headgear, however. Hats or caps 
may also be worn either separately or under turbans. Women's 
clothing is based on the same basic garment forms but differs 
in color, embellishment, materials, and accessories. In public, 
women's garments were traditionally hidden by veils that 
covered all parts of the body to the ground or only head, 
shoulders, and face. 

Turkic dress was widely influential throughout the Islamic 
world. The Seljuk Turks emerged from Central Asia, estab- 
lishing dynasties in Iran and Asia Minor by the eleventh 
century. By the mid-sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire 
encompassed most of the lands surrounding the eastern 

The traditional Turkish ensemble for either men or women 
consisted of loose-fitting trousers {salvor, don) and a shirt 
(gomlek), topped by a variety of jackets (cebken), vests (yelek), 
and long coats (entari, kaftan, uc etek). The use of coats and 
trousers derived from their nomadic origins in Central Asia. 
Trousers protect a rider's legs from chafing, and coats or 
jackets can be more readily donned or doffed than tunics 
while on horseback, as required in a variable climate. Layer- 
ing of garments was an important aesthetic element. Gar- 
ments were arranged to display the patterns and quality of 
fabrics on all layers and add bulk to the body image . The more 
formal the occasion or the higher the status of the wearer, the 
more layers worn, with richer materials further indicating 
wealth. Colorful sashes that added mass to the body image 
also served as a repository for weapons and personal articles. 
Ottoman Turkish headgear typically consisted of a brimless 
hat or cap in a variety of sizes and forms indicating official 
status, gender, and regional identity. Scarves were usually 
wrapped into a turban over the hat. The form of the turban 
indicated status, occupation, religious affiliation, or regional 
origin. Women's scarves were wrapped and tied around the 
head, frequently in layers, with a larger veil worn over all 
in public. 

Specific forms of dress were worn by Ottoman officials 
throughout the Ottoman Empire. The nearly five-hundred- 
year presence of Ottoman rule throughout much of the Arab 
world led to some blending of garment forms, particularly in 
northern Arab regions adjacent to Anatolia, and also in urban 

isfam and the Muslim World 

1 49 


Traditional male Arab dress is depicted in this 1936 postcard from 
the region. Cornell Costume and Textile Collection 

Arab centers of the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. 
The adoption of buttoned vests or jackets of silk or wool 
decorated with embroidery, and the loose-fitting trousers 
called salvar in Turkish or sirwal in Arabic are evidence of 
such borrowings in Arab dress. The dress of Muslim sub- 
Saharan Africa is derived from that of the Arabs who brought 
Islam there in the eleventh century. 

Traditional dress in Iran shares with that of Turkey forms 
indicative of nomadic origins, with layered coats and salvar as 
typical features of dress. These forms were also introduced 
into Muslim northern India from Central Asia by the Turkic 
Gaznevids in the eleventh and twelfth century, and by the 
Moguls in the sixteenth century. Such forms are reflected in 
Mogul court dress, where for men trousers (paijama) were 
typically combined with front-opening coats or jackets of 
varying length and cut (angarkha or jama). For women, the 
characteristic ensemble might include a bodice or tunic (kurta 
or choli) and skirt (gaghra), and/ or trousers (salwar), as well as a 
veil. The exquisitely fine and complex silks and cottons of 
India are a distinctive characteristic of dress from this region. 

Modesty in dress was enjoined in Islam for both men and 
women, although the particulars of pious modesty are not 
precisely defined in the Qur'an. The body of Islamic law and 
scholarship, however, has provided more specific directives 
that have nonetheless been applied differently in different 
times and places. Generally some sort of headcovering or 
veiling (hijab) is mandated for both men and women. In some 
countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia all women are 
required to veil, although the forms of veiling vary. In some 
other societies veils may be a matter of choice. 

Throughout the Islamic world, dress has been used to 
manage distinctions of rank, gender, and religion. Under 
Ottoman law, for example, dress of the various religious 
communities within the empire was regulated, with specific 
colors and forms of headgear, shoes, and garments defined. 
Garments, particularly coats, were an important aspect of 
court ceremonial throughout the Muslim world. The court 
reception of emissaries, celebration of religious holidays, 
installation of officials, or honoring of heroes always called 
for the presentation of ceremonial robes and other textile 
gifts, with the richness of the fabrics or fur linings a mark of 
the degree of honor conferred upon the recipient. The 
wearing of luxurious materials such as silk and gold thread 
was often restricted, however, although such restrictions 
were often ignored. The wearing of silk, particularly next to 
the skin, was widely held to be an impious luxury for good 
Muslims. A colorful satin cloth that had a cotton weft and silk 
warp, and therefore a cotton inner surface and a silk outer 
face, allowed the wearer to conform to this religious admoni- 
tion while enjoying the luxurious outer appearance of a silk 
garment. This textile was widely used in the Islamic world, 
known as kutnu in the Near East, and mashru in northern 
India and Pakistan. However, the most pious avoided luxuri- 
ous materials and colors, and wore clothing of simple wool, 
cotton, or linen. 

Beginning in the nineteenth century, westernization of 
dress occurred together with modernization of political, 
military, and educational institutions, since initially mod- 
ernization was officially perceived as consonant with 
westernization. Also the emergence of a modern textile in- 
dustry in many regions led to the disappearance of the more 
costly handmade textiles once used in traditional dress. Since 
dress had long been closely regulated under Muslim law, 
departures from traditional dress became highly charged 
political and social issues. The banning of the turban and the 
introduction of the fez by the Ottoman sultan Mahmut II in 
1829 (as well as a westernized military uniform) caused great 
controversy as did similar decrees in Iran in 1873. These 
reforms were intended to symbolize modernization of mili- 
tary and administrative institutions, yet a century later the fez 
had become a symbol of Ottoman traditionalism. Following 
the founding of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) 
met resistance when he banned the fez in 1925, and even 
more so when he urged abandonment of the veil for women. 

1 50 

islam and the Muslim World 


Since mandated ideas of proper dress had for centuries been 
the means of distinguishing Muslim from non-Muslim, these 
issues continue to have great emotional force throughout the 
Muslim world. In the 1980s and 1990s dress reemerged as a 
symbolic flashpoint between religious conservative and secu- 
larist elements in Islamic societies. 

Examples of traditional clothing appear in the volume one 
color insert. 

See also Art; Body, Significance of; Khirqa; Veiling. 

Jirousek, Charlotte. "The Transition to Mass Fashion Sys- 
tem Dress in the Later Ottoman Empire." In Consumption 
Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: 
An Introduction. Edited by Donald Quataert. Albany: State 
University of New York Press, 2000. 

Kocu, Resat Ekrem. Turk Giyim Kusam ve Szisleme Sbzlugu 
(Dictionary of Turkish: (Dress, Accessories, and Embel- 
lishment.) Ankara: Sumerbank, 1969. 

Lindisfarne-Tapper, Nancy, and Ingham, Bruce, eds. Lan- 
guages of Dress in the Middle East. Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: 
Curzon Press, 1997. 

Mayer, L. A. Mamluk Costume: A Survey. Geneva: Albert 
Kundig, 1952. 

Scarce, Jennifer. Women's Costume of the Near and Middle East. 
London: Unwin Hyman, 1987. 

Stillman, Yedida Kalfon. Arab Dress from the Dawn of Islam to 
Modern Times: A Short Histoty. Edited by Norman Stillman. 
Leiden, Boston, and Koln: Brill, 2000. 

Charlotte Jirousek 


When Islam emerged in 610 c.e., Mecca did not have its own 
coinage. Instead, it relied entirely on the coins of neighboring 
regions, particularly the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. 
Being both a trading town and a pilgrimage center, Mecca 
attracted a wide range of the coins in circulation at the time. 
Neither the prophet Muhammad nor his immediate political 
successors sought to change this. When the Muslims con- 
quered much of the Byzantine and Sassanid empires after the 
death of the Prophet in 632 c.e., they left the administrative 
structures of these regions, including their mints and coinages, 
largely intact. 

As a result of the Muslim conquests of the seventh century 
c.e., rapid economic expansion and currency circulation oc- 
curred in the Near East, along with Muslim migration from 
Arabia to the newly conquered regions. Regular cash stipends 
began to flow out to Muslims from the Central Treasury (bayt 
al-mal) in Medina during the caliphate of Umar I (r. 634—644), 
and there was substantial inflow of taxes and tributes from the 

conquered lands to the treasury, first located in Medina, then 
in Damascus during the Umayyad period. The monetization 
of the economy that resulted from this expansion required 
not only large amounts of cash (coins) but also a standard 
monetary unit for transactions and account keeping. In re- 
sponse, the silver dirham, modeled on the Sassanid drachma, 
was adopted, with the coins being provided by the former 
Sassanid mints. 

Economic expansion continued with the establishment of 
the Umayyad caliphate, but the silver dirham remained the 
unit of currency. As mints did not generally issue gold coins, 
the market had to rely largely on the Byzantine solidi to meet 
its gold currency needs. The solidi themselves suffered wear 
and tear, which led at times to a less than uniform weight. 
Similarly, the silver dirhams in circulation, or those minted 
by the Muslims, showed discrepancies. Strong pressure there- 
fore existed for a standard currency, including a unit based on 
gold, the production of which could be controlled by the 

Following minor attempts at currency reform by caliphs 
such as 'Umar I, Ali b. Abi Talib and Mu'awiyah, which went 
only as far as adding an Islamic inscription or date to existing 
Byzantine or Sassanid coins, Aid al-Malik b. Marwan (r. 
685-705), the Umayyad caliph, took the initiative. Between 
696 and 698, he changed the form as well as the weight of the 
dinar and dirham and regulated minting. The coins empha- 
sized the emerging power of Muslims and of Islam as a 
religion, with Islamic inscriptions such as "There is no God 
but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." Unlike 
Byzantine and Sassanid coins, the reformed coins did not bear 
the Caliph's image. 

The pre-reform dinar had weighed approximately 4.55 
grams, but c Abd al-Malik reduced it to 4.25 grams. The 
fineness of the dinar was set at a minimum 96 percent gold 
alloy. The weight of the pre-reform dirham had been ap- 
proximately 3.98 grams, but c Abd al-Malik standardized it to 
2.97 grams. This weight remained largely unchanged until 
the mid-ninth century c.e. The fineness of the silver dirham 
was also maintained at near 96 percent. Though the capital, 
Damascus, minted some coins, particularly gold dinars, Aid 
al-Malik did not centralize minting in that city. This function 
was given to provincial mints, and here the caliph relied 
heavily on his governor in Iraq, al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf, to impose 
coinage reform on the eastern regions of the caliphate. Later, 
caliph Hisham b. Abd al-Malik (r. 724-743) also tightened 
control over the quality of both dinar and dirham. 

'Abd al-Malik's reformed coinage set a standard that 
continued in some respects well into the following Abbasid 
period. In order to standardize further the coinage of the 
powerful Abbasid caliphate, the caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 813-833) 
introduced new coinage in 821 and 822. He abolished inclu- 
sion of the caliph's or the provincial governor's name on 
coins, ordered that both gold and silver coins should follow 

islam and the Muslim World 



An 1877 banknote for fifty Kurush from the Ottoman Empire. At 
the beginning of the Muslim empire after Muhammad's death, 
Muslim conquerers did not impose their own currency system on 
their subjects, because Mecca did not have its own coinage. 
Instead, it used the currency of nearby areas. Today, each Muslim 
nation has its own currency. The Art Archive/Dacli Orti (A) 

specific design guidelines and inscriptions, and appears to 
have centralized the production of coin dies. His successor, 
al-Mu'tasim, however, reintroduced the addition of the ca- 
liph's name. In the post-Mu'tasim period, some Abbasid 
caliphs even added the name of the heir-apparent or would- 
be successor. From the early ninth century to the middle of 
the tenth century c.e., the vast Abbasid caliphate thus ac- 
quired a significantly uniform coinage, which vastly aided 
internal and external, and Muslim and non-Muslim, com- 
merce and trade. These dinars and dirhams were imitated in 
Europe and elsewhere. 

With the decline in Abbasid power, the disintegration of 
the caliphate, and the emergence of independent provinces 
and dynasties, central control of the coinage as well as its 
uniformity were lost. Independent provinces began minting 
their own dinars and dirhams and determining the fineness of 
their coins. Although the fineness of gold dinars was at times 
maintained and even excelled, for instance under the Fatimid 
caliph al-Amir (r. 1101-1130) and the Ayyubid sultan al- 
Kamil (r. 1218-1238), large variations did occur. For this 
reason, there is disagreement among scholars on the use of 
the terms "Islamic dinar" and "Islamic dirham" as a standard 
unit of currency in the Muslim world, particularly in respect 
of the post-tenth-century c.e. period, except insofar as it 

1 52 

refers to the theoretical dinar and dirham of the Muslim 
jurists (fuqaha } ). 

Despite the variation in the quality of the coinage under 
different dynasties, certain features introduced by reformers 
remained common. These included inscriptions symbolizing 
the religious basis of the coinage, an indication of the mint 
year, the mint name, and often the name of the caliph or ruler 
under whom the coin was issued. Coins from Islamic dynas- 
ties have therefore an important historical significance. Apart 
from their commercial role, they can tell us much about the 
political and economic condition and the artistic and aes- 
thetic tendencies of the time. 

In the modern period, each Muslim state has its own 
coinage and, like other countries, has abandoned the gold 
standard, even though Muslim jurists have not relinquished 
the concept of the gold dinar or the silver dirham in their legal 
texts. In many juristic discussions, money proper is still the 
dinar and the dirham of early Islam. However, as part of a 
wider Islamic revival, the idea of a specifically Islamic stand- 
ard unit of currency, a dinar, has been revived, though not 
necessarily based on the earlier gold dinar. The most visible 
aspect of this was the adoption in 1975 of the Islamic Dinar as 
its unit of accounting by the Islamic Development Bank, an 
international Islamic financial institution whose shareholders 
are member states of the Organization of the Islamic Confer- 
ence (OIC). The value of the Islamic Dinar is equivalent to 
one SDR — Special Drawing Right — of the International 
Monetary Fund. 

See also Economy and Economic Institutions; Law; 
Networks, Muslim. 


Ehrenkruetz, Andrew S. Monetary Change and Economic His- 
tory in the Medieval Muslim World. Edited by Jere L. 
Bacharach. Hampshire, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing, 1992. 

El-Hibri, Tayeb. "Coinage Reform Under the Abbasid Caliph 
al-Ma 3 mun. "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the 
Orient 36 (1993): 58-83. 

Grierson, Philip. "The Monetary Reform of Abd al-Malik." 

Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 3 
(1960): 241-264. 

Miles, G. C. "Dinar." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Leiden: 
E.J. Brill, 1960. 

Miles, G. C. "Dirham." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Leiden: 
E.J. Brill, 1960. 

Abdullah Saeed 


Modern colonialism goes back to the era of European discov- 
ery in the fifteenth century, connecting exploitation of raw 

islam and the Muslim World 


materials with missionary ideas. Since then colonialism has 
taken several and different forms, and various colonial powers 
(such as the Portuguese and French in Africa, French and 
British in the Middle East and South Asia, the Dutch in 
Southeast Asia, the Spanish in South America) tried to sup- 
port their own hegemonies in Europe as well as competing 
and contesting materially and politically in order to control 
the new world economy. 

The independence of the United States ushered in an- 
other phenomenon: White colonial regions became indepen- 
dent as they became semi-sovereign vis-a-vis their colonial 
motherlands. At the same time European industrial countries 
contested for the safeguarding of raw materials, markets, and 
possibilities of emigration in what they considered to be 
unexploited and virgin regions. 

Colonial Expanison 

Modern colonial expansion and colonization (when few Euro- 
pean settlers appeared in the Muslim world) started in the 
wake of the breakdown of Muslim empires, from within the 
boundaries of the territorial European states established in 
the eighteenth century into the borders of national markets. 
Hence, colonialism did not expand beyond traditional and 
primitive societies but into closed political entities, such as 
the territorial princely states or successor states, which had 
replaced the great empires. By the eighteenth century the 
world economy was already reorganized, and European ex- 
pansion had gradually changed the terms of trade for Muslim 
countries. A tremendous societal upheaval occurred as parts 
of the traditional society were increasingly integrated into 
world market relations. This complex process came about 
primarily through technical innovation (e.g., perennial irri- 
gation systems), investment of capital, and privatization of 
landed property (e.g., the 1793 permanent settlement in 
India). Next to the traditional urban and agrarian sectors, 
colonial urban and agrarian sectors were established, using a 
colonial infrastructure. The previously important nomadic 
sector was noticeably marginalized. A colonial administrative 
and military force was set up, visualized in new settlements, 
such as civil lines and cantonments. The education system 
was replaced or paralleled by a new European one suiting 
colonial interests. 

In doing so two broad patterns were followed: direct rule, 
virtually excluding indigenous political structures, as favored 
by the Spanish and Portuguese in the Americas, and by the 
French in Africa (especially after the French Revolution); and 
indirect rule, which by contrast, incorporated traditional 
indigenous political structures and was favored by the British 
in South Asia, the Dutch in Southeast Asia, and by the 
Germans and Belgians in Africa. The reasons for these 
differences were pragmatic — the cost-effectiveness through 
the involvement of few Europeans — as well as ethnocentric, 
wherein non-whites and whites were considered fundamen- 
tally different, and therefore were controllable only by their 

islam and the Muslim World 

own leaders and systems. Often corporate bodies of mer- 
chants initiated a system of indirect rule, such as the various 
East Indian Companies. In this way vast colonies could be 
ruled remotely through the "resident," the agent of indi- 
rect rule. 

The colonial restructuring was accompanied by profound 
changes in the socio-psychological sphere of Muslim socie- 
ties as well. Traditional systems of society, values, and rela- 
tions were gradually replaced by abstract, anonymous state 
agents — whether through direct or indirect rule. This proc- 
ess ushered in new societal formations, especially in the 
political sphere, since with the increasing expansion of the 
colonial sector, traditional forces came to break down or 
looked for alternative structures. But not all sectors and areas 
were seized by the politically dominant colonial sector, as 
their integration was not always profitable, such as in parts of 
traditional and tribal areas. They were consequently ignored, 
and they still are socioeconomically neglected areas. 

The colonialization of the Islamic world in the nineteenth 
century occurred over several decades. The process can be 
divided into three phases: from 1820, when colonial power 
was already firmly established, to 1856, when Muslim coun- 
tries struggled for recognition in the changing geopolitical 
reality; and, from 1856 to 1880 nearly all Muslim countries 
lost their economic and financial independence and became 
dependent on the Europeans. During the period from 1880 
to 1910 most of these countries — apart from those Muslim 
countries controlled by the Ottoman caliphate — were subject 
to direct colonial military and political control: economic 
colonialism had become political colonialism. In this situa- 
tion of political subservience, the traditional urban divines, 
particularly theologians, were responsible for the traditional 
legitimization of the ruler. At the same time, in the colonial 
urban sector, Islamic repertory was gradually used as an 
ideology and a mobilizing force by those societal formations 
that had become partly integrated into this colonial sector. In 
contrast to this, in the traditional agrarian sector Islam 
prevailed in the form of egalitarian peasant culture, as can be 
seen from a number of Sufi and Mahdi movements. 

The idea of universal caliphate, which had been used by 
the Ottomans since the middle of the eighteenth century, 
particularly for reasons of foreign policy, became a vehicle for 
pan-Islamic propaganda, notably by Sultan Ahd al-Hamid II. 
Though this propaganda was politically unsuccessful and led 
to the demise of the caliphate in 1924, the propaganda 
triggered a hefty discussion of the idea of a universal caliphate 
outside of Turkey: On the one hand the validity of the idea 
was questioned (Abd al-Raziq); on the other, Indian Muslims 
staged a khilafat movement. A colonial crackdown, however, 
put this movement down. 

The Second World War accelerated the process of 
decolonialization but left the former colonies with basic 
structural problems that were a result of colonialism, such as 

1 53 


insufficient societal integration, artificial boundaries, and 
narrowly based economies. 

Beside these socio-historical and political developments, 
one needs to consider the normative aspect underlying the 
colonial process: A colonial collective image of Islam was 
created, going as far back as the Crusades and revived at a 
time when Europeans had started to project their own imagi- 
nations onto Muslim societies — a phenomenon that historian 
Edward Said has called "Orientalism." In this view, the 
heterogeneous Islamic world was reduced to a monolithic, 
antimodern, and anti-intellectual world excluded from world 

Nineteenth-century colonial politics was legitimized as 
evolutionary and modern, while the "Orient" was constructed 
as a cultural space, diametrically opposed to the values and 
norms of the West, which were considered to be inherently 
universal. This unidimensional social evolutionism proclaimed 
Europe as embodying hegemonic power. In doing so, various 
discourses about the Orient promulgated the societal decline, 
dogmatism, despotism, and irrationality of the region. Even- 
tually this hegemonic claim produced new "Orientalist" 

Against the backdrop of a postulated universal evolution- 
ary history, the Orientalist sciences analyzed the object "Ori- 
ent" in its historical development, making use of the Hegelian 
categories of alienation and reconciliation. In this way, colo- 
nial administrations were provided with a "scientifically 
proven" image about the stage of development attained by 
the Orient, which was seen to be alienated from its classical 
high culture. Cultural theories provided the colonial admin- 
istration with this Orientalist image, which ran counter to the 
historical one of classical high culture. On the basis of this 
construction, colonial measures to "reconcile" the Orient 
with its alienated tradition were to be implemented as an 
export of progress. Thus terms like "modern" and "tradi- 
tional" or "primitive" became scientific categories, establish- 
ing an epistemological supremacy of Europe that was firmly 
established politically. 

In this way authority was created on the object "Orient" 
not only for the Europeans but also gradually, through 
reciprocal perceptions, for the "Orientals" themselves. Sub- 
sequendy, authority was derived from the instrumentalization 
of the Weberian demand for "value-free" social sciences, that 
became "objective" insofar as they were considered to be not 
ideologically biased, but unquestionably "true." 

While the power relations cannot be ignored, it is impor- 
tant to note the cultural hybridization of the colonial process, 
for example, the reciprocity of colonializer and colonialized. 
Indeed, the colonialized peoples had a function in the colo- 
nial process, for the establishment of European dominance 
was essentially based on the cooperation of local informants, 

colonial traders, and rulers. Therefore, contemporary de- 
bates became the starting point for the colonial reception of 
Oriental society. Naturally, the oscillating processes between 
Europeans and non-Europeans openly and latently shaped 
both societies. If projection is considered to be a cultural 
technique for self-affirmation and demarcation, then assign- 
ing a collective (negative) identity to the (colonialized) "other" 
implied the colonialists' generating their own identity in a 
specific colonial context. Indeed, some European enlighten- 
ment figures even had gone as far as to use the "Orient" as a 
didactic background to criticize their own urban societies, 
thereby setting out the frame of reference for their own 

The intrinsic impact of reciprocity and mutuality of the 
colonial process may have found one political manifestation 
in indirect rule, which was, however, not implemented in its 
totality, because the British administration got involved in 
internal affairs of these societies very quickly, at times resem- 
bling the French system of direct colonial administration. In 
India one manifestation of British indirect rule was the 
establishment of an honors system and the issuing of titles. 
The residency system provided for the cultural success of 
imperialism, a success that found its climax in the "invention 
of tradition" as it represented colonial authority in Victorian 
India through different devices, such as highly ritualistic 
events to mark Queen Victoria's accession in 1876 to the title 
"Kaisar-e Hind" (Empress of India, combining the imperial 
titles of Roman "Caesar," German "Kaiser," and Russian 

The nineteenth-century Orientalist image and action not 
only cemented the dominant image of the Orient in the 
West but also affected the self-statement of the Orient. 
Consequently this image changed non-Western practices 
concretely — from blind imitation of modernization to a total 
rejection of Western society, thereby forming a "strange 
alliance" between western Orientalism and Muslim funda- 
mentalism, whence one side satisfied the essentializing fanta- 
sies of the other. 

Colonialism and the Emergence of 
Islamic Movements 

The deep traces of colonialism that changed the whole 
landscape of the Muslim world brought about new social 
formations, and new Islamic movements: 

• Reform Islam was prominent among pastoral and 
tribal societies, based on Wahhabiyyan and 
other ideas. 

• Reform Sufism started off in urban, pastoral, and 
tribal areas, first against feudal rule and later oppos- 
ing European intrusion. In doing so, the figure of 
prophet Muhammad became even more pivotal, 
hence the establishment of "Muhammadan Paths" 
{turuq Muhammadiyya) in the colonialized regions. 

1 54 

islam and the Muslim World 


This kind of mystical approach found its climax in 

the movement of the Mahdi of Sudan. 

• A third trend was Islamic modernism, represented 
primarily by intellectuals, bureaucrats, and the mili- 
tary, and manifested in creations of the colonial 
system, like the Aligarh Movement in India, the 
Young Ottomans, and the so-called pan-Islamic 

These movements adjusted to the new conditions and 
opted for the integration of the colonial system with Islamic 
theology. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Sayyid Ahmad Khan 
were two exponents of the modernizing trend, however 
different their motivations may have been. Precondition for 
the ideologization of Islam was a renewed call for the 
reintroduction of independent reasoning (ijtihad) at the cost 
of adherence to one's school of law itaqlii). Timeless catego- 
ries developed in the course of Western civilization were now 
regarded as immanently Islamic. The use of media in exile — 
mostly in the metropolises of their colonial motherlands — 
was part of that strategy. 

As a result of colonialism a three-layered structure emerged: 
secularized urban (post-colonial) state regimes, traditional 
urban nonpolitical Muslim religious associations, and urban 
middle-class opposition movements that stood for some kind 
of a reconstruction of a Muslim state. 

Subsequently, after political independence following the 
Second World War, the new Muslim states were mostly 
centralized and secularized, based on military or bureaucratic 
elites with state capitalism or socialism favoring the ruling 
elites. Islamic modernism was replaced by secular national- 
ism, co-opting Muslim leaders who would legitimize this 
centralism. To be sure, the identity-giving Islamic symbolism 
was used for the mobilization of wider strata of society. 

The nonpolitical Muslim religious associations mostly 
stayed quietistic, while new movements among parts of the 
ulema played on their Islamicity. Some of them referred to 
concepts tuned to colonial society, basically so as not to fall 
behind completely in terms of political influence. The oppo- 
sition movements stood for the reconstruction of a Muslim 
state and reorganized Islam in different ways, for example, 
the theory of the caliphate providing an extended interpreta- 
tion to legitimize power, rendering Islam into a comprehen- 
sive system that was to counter Western ideologies. 

One branch of this Muslim cultural manifestation is of 
quite some importance. For example, religious fundamental- 
ism, which has to be seen as a reaction to colonial encroach- 
ment as well as a demarcation against folk-religious traditions, 
reevaluating Islam in terms of political ideology, was elabo- 
rated upon only during the 1930s. 

Its carriers were integrated into the post-colonial system, 
due to which they adopted and adapted its major terms, 

giving them an Islamic garb. This normative replacement 
enabled these Islamic classicists to transcend traditional 
boundaries and legitimize modern developments within the 
Islamic semiotics. In this process of reinvention of tradition, 
code- or identity-switching is most important, providing this 
political Islam with its particular dynamics. 

The latest development in the wake of colonialism is the 
emigration of large Muslim communities to Europe and 
North America. The migration pattern follows colonial and 
historical traditions, that is, Maghrebian Muslims in France, 
Southeast Asian Muslims in the Netherlands, South Asian 
Muslims in Britain, and Turkish Muslims in Germany. 

See also Fundamentalism; Orientalism. 

Al-Azmeh, Aziz. Islam and Modernities. London: Verso, 1993. 

Malik, Jamal, ed. Perspectives of Mutual Encounters in South 
Asian History: 1760-1860. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000. 

Said, Edward. Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient. 
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. 

Schulze, Reinhard. Geschichte der islamischen Welt im 20. 
Jahrhundert. Munich: Beck, 1994. 

Jamal Malik 


Both communism and Islam pose solutions to social, moral, 
economic and political order. Their differences, however, are 
numerous and fundamental. Communist movements have 
developed throughout the Islamic world but they have been 
limited to a narrow social base, and have most often been 
composed of non-Muslims. Communist groups became deeply 
involved with debating the Marxist-Leninist theoretical rea- 
sons for this failure to obtain mass support. These debates 
further fragmented most communist movements in the Islamic 
world. Communism in the Middle East was never a serious 
contender for power, and the collapse of the Soviet Union 
further marginalized communism worldwide. 

Islamic scholars critiqued communism in several areas. 
Foremost, communism denies the existence of God. In doing 
so, it is directly opposed to Islam and Islamic tenets of faith. 
Further, Islam views history in a different way than does 
communism. Rather than the communist dialectic, and the 
movement of history from capitalism to communism, Islam 
views history as a search for faith and truth. Historical 
development of society ends when Islam is accepted, not 
when capitalism is swept away by communism. Finally, in 

islam and the Muslim World 

1 55 


seeking social justice, Islam does not seek to make all persons 
equal; it accepts that some will have more than others. Islam 
achieves social justice through acceptance of the obligation of 
those with more to provide for those with less, through 
processes such as zakat (alms giving). 

Before the Second World War, communist movements in 
the Middle East consisted of small groups of intellectuals, 
drawn to its anticolonial stance. The post-war environment, 
with Soviet expansionism and the collapse of the colonial 
powers, was initially considered by most communists as an 
opportunity to reach the masses. Soviet support to these 
groups was not automatic. The Cold War saw the Soviet 
Union faced with often-contradictory policies of supporting 
communist revolutionary movements and supporting gov- 
ernments aligned with Soviet interests. For instance, support 
to the Egyptian government under Jamal c Abd al-Nasser was 
valuable to Soviet interests, but conflicted with addressing 
the needs of the Egyptian Communist Party. In other cases, 
such as Iran, the Soviets provided clandestine support to the 
communists. Meanwhile, under the Eisenhower Doctrine, 
the United States formalized its opposition to communist 
movements in the Middle East. Under this doctrine, the 
United States intervened militarily in Lebanon in 1958, and 
formed the Baghdad Pact against Soviet expansionism. Nei- 
ther the United States nor the Soviet Union fully understood 
the driving forces of the area, as was demonstrated to each in 
Iran and Afghanistan in the late 1970s. 

In Egypt, Palestine, and Lebanon in the 1920s, well-to-do 
intellectuals founded communist or socialist political groups. 
After the Second World War, the Syrian Communist Party, 
which had attracted support from Kurds and other minori- 
ties, grew to some importance in the 1 950s, but never became 
a serious contender for power. The Lebanese Communist 
Party, outlawed until 1970, never gained more than a few 
thousand members. The Egyptian Communist Party shared 
the anticolonial views of Nasser, but he banned the party and 
imprisoned its leaders following his 1952 coup. Since then, 
communism in Egypt has been represented by a number of 
peripheral splinter groups. 

In Iran, after the First World War, a major communist 
movement developed in Iran, where contact with Russian 
communists in Azerbaijan resulted in the formation of the 
Adalat Party, in 1917. In 1920 this became the Ferqeh-ye 
Komunist-e Iran. Outlawed in 1929, it was reestablished as 
the Tudeh Party in 1941. This was outlawed in 1949, but 
continued to develop underground. Party membership con- 
sisted mainly of intellectuals, military officers, and other 
elites, and its leadership was heavily factionalized. Following 
the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddeq (1953), the Iranian 
government took firm action against the Tudeh, and deci- 
mated the Party. Splinter communist elements continued to 
be active in Iran through the late 1970s, playing a role in the 

Islamic Revolution of 1979. These groups were eliminated or 
driven out of Iran as the clerics consolidated their power. 

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP, founded in 1934) has 
played a role out of proportion to its size in Iraqi politics, 
beginning with its participation in the independence move- 
ment against the British. The overthrow of the Hashemite 
kingdom in 1958 brought the party to national importance. 
The ICP mobilized a quarter-million demonstrators against 
a conservative coup attempt in 1959, and had its own armed 
militia. Its rival, the Ba'th Party, a secular, socialist movement 
espousing Arab unity and anticolonialism, immediately was 
plunged into conflict with the ICP after seizing power in 
1963, and quickly outstripped it in influence. In 1974, all 
opposition parties, including the ICP, were consolidated into 
the Progressive National Front (PNF), which allowed the 
Ba c ath to firmly control the opposition movements. From 
1978 to 1979, the government arrested and executed many 
ICP leaders, while others fled the country. 

Only one Middle Eastern state, the People's Republic of 
Yemen, has had a Marxist government. While a British 
colony, a violent independence movement developed with 
Soviet support. Following independence in 1967, the Soviet- 
funded National Liberation Front, a Marxist group, took and 
held power. The Front was convulsed by factionalism, and 
quickly became more ideological and repressive. To divert 
popular dissent, the Front fought skirmishes with neighbor- 
ing Oman, Saudi Arabia, and North Yemen. When the Soviet 
Union collapsed, South Yemen no longer received Soviet aid, 
and the long-standing attempt to merge North and South 
Yemen under a single, noncommunist government, officially 
succeeded in 1990, although outbreaks of unrest still occur. 

The late 1960s saw a resurgence of splinter communist 
movements among students and intellectuals, as Maoism and 
Guevarism became popular. These movements had no sig- 
nificant mass appeal, but because of the violent tendencies of 
the groups, they had some political impact as governments 
attempted to control them. Some Palestinian groups ab- 
sorbed these ideologies and their emphasis on violence and 
revolution. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestin- 
ian (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of 
Palestine (DFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation 
of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) all combined 
Marxist-Leninism with Palestinian nationalism. In most coun- 
tries, there were no more than a few hundred adherents of 
these revolutionary communist ideologies, and these were 
often splintered into several groups with narrow ideological 

The model of communist revolt, involving mobilizing the 
proletariat, failed in the Middle East. Attempts by some 
communists to adapt their principles to local conditions failed 
due to the ideological rigidity of communist leadership. 

1 56 

islam and the Muslim World 

Conflict and Violence 

Other factors included the suppression of communist move- 
ments by almost all regional governments, ideological in- 
fighting and factionalism among the communists, and the 
availability of alternative social and economic structures that 
satisfied most of the populations. The collapse of the Soviet 
Union left most communists further isolated from public 

See also c Abd al-Nasser, Jamal; Ba c th Party; Political 
Organization; Political Thought; Socialism. 


Batatu, Hana. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary 
Movements in Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Com- 
mercial Classes and of its Communists, BaHhists and Free 
Officers. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978. 

Cottam, Richard W. Nationalism in Iran. Pittsburgh, Pa.: 
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979. 

Ismael, Tareq Y., and El-Sa'id, Rifa'at. The Communist Move- 
ment in Egypt, 1920-1988. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Uni- 
versity Press, 1990. 

Richard C. Company, Jr. 


In the contemporary period, Islam is frequently depicted as 
predisposed to conflict and violence. The intractable Middle 
East conflict and recent events in which Muslim extremists 
have been implicated in acts of terror have only served to 
reinforce this widespread perception. To discern the veracity 
of the assertion that in some special way Islam is related to 
deadly conflict, it is important to situate the discussion within 
a concrete sociohistorical context. Islam, conflict, and vio- 
lence do not occur in a social vacuum. Moreover, in order to 
correctly understand the ethical norms of Islam represented 
in the Muslim sacred scripture, the Qur'an, and in the 
exemplary conduct of the prophet Muhammad, it is necessary 
to analyze the historical milieu within which such norms were 

When the prophet Muhammad (570-632 c.e.) brought 
the Qur'an to the Arabs in the early seventh century, pre- 
Islamic Arabia was steeped in oppressive social relations and 
caught up in a vicious cycle of violence. Muhammad's egali- 
tarian message quickly began to threaten the Meccan elite. 
They opposed his teachings with great vehemence. He was 
forced to send some of his early followers to seek refuge in 
Abyssinia and later, in 622 c.e., he himself fled to the nearby 
city of Medina. Throughout the Meccan period, the early 
Muslims responded to the mental anguishes, physical abuse, 
and persistent threats to their lives with passive resistance. It 

was only thirteen years into his prophetic mission that Muham- 
mad and the early Muslims were permitted to engage in 
armed resistance, but only under certain stringent condi- 
tions, as specified in the Qur'an. 

Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom 
war is being wrongfully waged. God has indeed the 
power to succor them: those who have been driven 
from their homelands against all right for no other 
reason than their saying, "Our Lord and Sustainer is 
God! For, if God had not enabled people to defend 
themselves against one another, monasteries and 
churches and synagogues and mosques — in which God's 
name is abundantly extolled — would surely have been 
destroyed." (22:39-40) 

It is interesting to note that the above verses give prece- 
dence to the protection of monasteries, churches, and syna- 
gogues over that of mosques in order to underline their 
inviolability and the duty of the Muslim to safeguard them 
against any desecration or abuse, and protect freedom of 
belief. The aim of fighting according to this critical verse is 
the defense of not only Islam, but also of religious freedom in 

In the succeeding decade (622-632 c.e.) Muhammad and 
his growing band of followers engaged in a series of battles to 
defend Islam against the military aggression of their adversar- 
ies, including the critical battles of Badr, Uhud, and Khandaq. 
Warfare was a desperate affair in seventh-century Arabia. A 
chieftain was not expected to display weakness to his enemies 
in a battle, and some of the Qur'anic injunctions seem to 
share this spirit (4:90). Because the Qur'an was revealed in the 
context of deadly conflict, several passages deal with the 
ethics of warfare. (5:49; 8:61; 11:118-119; 49:9; 49:13). The 
most contentious of these is the so-called sword verse (ayat 

Once the sacred months have passed, you may kill the 
idolaters when you encounter them, and take them 
[captive], and besiege them, and prepare for them each 
ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and 
pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! God is 
Forgiving, Merciful. (9:5) 

Some classical Muslim commentators have construed this 
verse to imply that Muslims are obligated to fight non- 
Muslims until they embrace Islam in the case of polytheists, 
or pay a special tax known zsjizya, in the case of Jews and 
Christians who are referred to as the "people of the book." 

Yet other verses include exhortations to peace: "Thus, if 
they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you 

isfam and the Muslim World 


Conflict and Violence 

peace, God does not allow you to harm them" (4:90). The 
Qur'an quotes the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, which per- 
mits people to retaliate eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but like 
the Gospels, the Qur'an suggests that it is meritorious to 
forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5:45). Hostilities must be 
brought to an end as quickly as possible and must cease the 
minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-193). The Qur'an, 
moreover, makes it emphatically clear that conflict can only 
be successfully ameliorated through the establishment of 
justice, which transcends sectarian self-interests. (4: 1 3 5; 7:29) 

O Believers! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses for 
God, even it is means testifying against yourselves, or 
your parents, or your kin, and whether it is against the 
rich or the poor, for God prevails upon all. Follow not 
the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you 
distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God 
knows what you do. (4: 135) 

The just war is always evil, but sometimes one has to fight 
in order to avoid the kind of persecution that Mecca inflicted 
on the Muslims (2:191; 2:217), or to preserve decent values 
(4:75; 22:40). During his stay in Medina, Muhammad at- 
tempted to resolve the conflict with the Meccan leaders and 
their allies by entering into a peace treaty at a place called al- 
Hudaybiya. The treaty came to be known as sulh al-Hudaybiya. 
Sulh is an important term in Islamic law (shari'a). The 
purpose of sulh is to end conflict and hostility among adver- 
saries so that they may conduct their relationships in peace 
and amity (49:9). The word itself has been used to refer both 
to the process of restorative justice and peacemaking and to 
the actual outcome of that process. Even though sulh al- 
Hudaybiya never actually achieved its aims because the Meccan 
tribesmen violated its conditions, it remains as an instructive 
conflict-intervention strategy. 

In 630 c.e., the Muslims gained their most significant 
victory when they captured the city of Mecca, remarkably 
without bloodshed. This provided Muhammad with a second 
opportunity to institute a genuine sulh process. In a spirit of 
magnanimity, he forgave his enemies and enacted a process of 
reconciliation. A general amnesty was proclaimed in which all 
tribal claims to vengeance were abolished. Three years later 
Muhammad died in Medina at the age of sixty- three. 

The Qur'anic term most often conflated with that of 
violence is jihad. The Arabic verb jahada from which the 
verbal noun jihad is derived literally means "to strive hard, to 
exert strenuous effort and to struggle." As a multivalent 
Islamic concept, it denotes any effort in pursuit of a com- 
mendable aim. Jihad is a comprehensive concept embracing 
peaceful persuasion (16:125) and passive resistance (13:22; 
23:96; 41:34), as well as armed struggle against oppression 

and injustice (2:193; 4:75; 8:39). The Islamic concept of jihad 
should not be confused with the medieval concept of holy war 
since the actual word al-harb al-muqaddasa is never used in the 
Qur'an. In Islam, a war is never holy; it is either justified or 
not. Moreover, jihad is not directed at other faiths. In a 
statement in which the Arabic is extremely emphatic, the 
Qur'an insists, "There must be no coercion in matters of 
faith!" (2:256). More than this, the protection of freedom of 
belief and worship for followers of other religions has been 
made a sacred duty of Muslims. This duty was fixed at the 
same time when the permission for armed struggle (jihad al- 
qital) was ordained (22:39-40). 

In mystical (Sufi) traditions of Islam the greatest form of 
jihad, personal jihad, is to purify the soul and refine the 
disposition. This is regarded as the far more urgent and 
momentous struggle and it is based on a prophetic tradition 
(hadith). Muhammad is reported to have advised his compan- 
ions as they return after a battle, "We are returning from the 
lesser jihad [physical fighting] to the greater jihad \jihad al- 
nafs] . " Sufis have traditionally understood this greater form of 
jihad to be the spiritual struggle to discipline the lower 
impulses and base instincts in human nature. The renowned 
thirteenth-century Sufi scholar, Jalal al-Din Rumi, articu- 
lated such an understanding of jihad when he wrote: "The 
prophets and saints do not avoid spiritual struggle. The first 
spiritual struggle they undertake is the killing of the ego and 
the abandonment of personal wishes and sensual desires. This 
is the greater jihad" (Chittick, trans., p. 151). 

After the demise of the Prophet and the completion of the 
textual guidance of the Qur'an, Muslims were faced with the 
challenge of interpreting and applying the Islamic normative 
principles on conflict and violence to their own peculiar 
sociohistorical contexts. Subsequent generations of Muslims 
have interpreted these normative values in such a way as to 
give Islam a paradoxical role in human history. In the first 
three centuries of Islam the classical doctrine of jihad was 
forged by Muslim jurists primarily in response to the imperial 
politics of the Abbasid caliphate on the one hand and the 
Byzantine Empire on the other. Abrogating the Meccan 
experience and predicating itself on selected verses of the 
Qur'an, one finds the following: "And fight them on until 
there is no more oppression and tumult (fitnah) and religion 
should be for God" (2:193). Classical scholars developed a 
doctrine of jihad in which the world is simply divided into a 
dichotomy of abodes: the territory of Islam (dar al-islam) and 
the territory of war {dar al-harb). In accordance with this 
belligerent paradigm, a permanent state of war (jihad) charac- 
terized relations between the two abodes. The only way a 
non-Muslim territory could avert a jihad was either to con- 
vert to Islam or to pay an annual tribute or poll tax (jizyah). 
The classical belief erroneously perceived of jihad as the 
instrument of the Islamic caliphate to expand Muslim 

1 58 

islam and the Muslim World 

Conflict and Violence 

Though most Muslim artists refrain from creating representations of the prophet Muhammad and his family, this 1 368 Turkish book 
painting depicts the Prophet, with his face covered by a white cloth, leading his disciples on horseback to Badr to confront the pagan 
Meccan army. The Art Archive/Topkapi Museum Istanbul/Harper Collins Publishers 

islam and the Muslim World 


This controversial interpretation of jihad failed to capture 
the full range of the term's rich meaning. The reductionist 
interpretation of jihad, though not unanimous, came to 
dominate subsequent Muslim juristic thinking. One of the 
earliest scholars who represented an alternative perspective 
was Sufyan al-Thawri (b. 715). Al-Thawri believed that jihad 
was only justified in defense. The classical doctrine of jihad 
has and continues to be challenged by Muslim jurists. A 
number of modern Muslim reform movements have em- 
ployed the classical doctrine of jihad to legitimate their 
struggles against colonial or postcolonial secular state rule. 
Other contemporary Muslim scholars, such as Muhammad 
Abu Zahra, Mahmud Shaltut, Muhammad al Ghunaimi, 
Louay M. Safi, and Ridwan al-Sayyid, have criticized the 
classical doctrine of jihad as being seriously flawed since it 
violates some of the essential Islamic principles on the ethics 
of war. Safi has written objecting to the classical doctrine: 
"Evidently, the classical doctrine of war and peace has not 
been predicated on a comprehensive theory. The doctrine 
describes the factual conditions that historically prevailed 
between the Islamic state, during the Ahassid and Byzantium 
era, and thus, renders rules which respond to specific histori- 
cal needs" (Safi, p. 44). 

Safi and Al-Sayyid as well as a number of other contempo- 
rary scholars hold that the classical doctrine of hegemonic 
jihad is contingent on a historical context and thus has a 
limited application. They have argued for a recovery of the 
alternative interpretation of classical scholars, such as Malik 
ibn Anas, the founder of the Maliki school of Islamic jurispru- 
dence, who identified a third option, the territory of peaceful 
covenant or coexistence or (dar-al-sulh or c ahd). He had in 
mind the long-standing cordial relationship that had existed 
between the early Muslims and the Abyssinian Christian 
state. He recalled that the prophet Muhammad himself had 
sent the earliest group of his followers from Mecca to seek 
refuge from persecution in Abyssinia. They lived there peace- 
fully for many years, and some of them did not return, even 
after Muslims were in power in Mecca. Moreover, the Prophet 
had advised peaceful coexistence with the Abyssinians, re- 
portedly saying: "Leave the Abyssinians in peace as long as 
they leave you in peace." Safi contends that the fact that the 
early Muslims did not make any attempts to turn Abyssinia 
into an Islamic state is sufficient evidence that a third way, 
the "Abyssinian paradigm," was an Islamically sanctioned 

The alternative paradigm represented by the Abyssinian 
model was marginalized and ignored by the partisan interpre- 
tations of the classical Muslim jurists. Contemporary Mus- 
lims are currently reclaiming this third paradigm of peaceful 
coexistence. Others called on contemporary Muslims to 
reclaim the rich Sufi tradition on conflict transformation by 
relinking the lesser jihad to that of the greater jihad (p. 108). 
Both have profound implications for expanding Muslim re- 
sources for conflict transformation and peace-building efforts. 

A candid photograph appears in the color insert. 
See also Fitna; Tbadat; Jihad; Political Islam. 


Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law. 
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 

Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. 
San Francisco, Calif: Harper San Francisco, 1992. 

Chittick, William, trans. The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual 
Teachings of Rumi. Albany: State University of New York 
Press, 1983. 

Khadduri, Majid. War and Peace in Mam. New York: AMS 
Press, 1979. 

Lings, Martin. Muhammad: His Life According to the Earliest 
Sources. New York: Inner Traditions International, 1983. 

Peters, Rudolph. Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. 
Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1996. 

Safi, Louay M. Peace and the Limits of War — Transcending 
Classical Conception of Jihad. Herndon, Va.: International 
Institute of Islamic Thought, 2001. 

Said, Abdul Aziz; Funk, Nathan O; and Kadayifci, Ayse S., 
eds. Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam. New York: 
University Press of America, 2001. 

A. Rashied Omar 


In Islam conversion consists of the recitation of the shahada or 
profession of faith which is composed of two affirmations 
from the Qur'an that have been integrated to form a single 
declaration of faith in the uniqueness and oneness of God and 
the finality of His revelation to the prophet Muhammad. It 
reads "There is no god but God [Allah, the Arabic proper 
name for God used by both Arabic-speaking Muslims and 
Christians], and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." The 
Qur'an uses the terms "The Messenger of God" and "The 
Prophet" synonymously to refer to Muhammad, who is 
implicitly declared to be the last of God's genuine prophets. 

Some Muslim scholars, among them the renowned Per- 
sian mystic, philosopher, and theologian al-Ghazali (1058-1 111 
c.e.), are of the opinion that a declaration of intent (niya), 
made prior to the recitation of the shahada, is necessary for its 
validity and for the validity of such ritual acts as prayer, 
fasting, and almsgiving. On the other hand many Muslim 
lawyers are persuaded that niya is only necessary for the 
validity of prayer (salai). 

In early Islam conversion was not a condition for member- 
ship of the umma or Muslim community. Prior to the surren- 
der of Mecca in 629 c.e. the Jews of Medina had the same 

1 60 

islam and the Muslim World 


rights and obligations as other members of the umma. After 
the fall of Mecca to Muhammad the zakat (alms tax) was 
levied on converts to Islam, benevolence being one of the 
chief virtues of the true believer, and the jizya (a personal 
poll-tax to be paid, where possible, in money) was imposed on 
all non-Muslims (with the exception of certain categories of 
persons including women, the poor, the enslaved, and impov- 
erished monks) who wanted to join the umma. 

Jihad and Conversion 

While the spread of Islam is a religious duty, the Qur'an also 
instructs believers that there should be no compulsion in 
matters of religion (2:256), thus seemingly ruling out coer- 
cion as a means of conversion. There are many scholars of 
Islam, Muslim and non-Muslim, who are persuaded, largely 
on the basis of this text, that the obligation to perform jihad of 
the sword (al-jihad bi-il-sayf) — sometimes described as the 
lesser form of jihad, in contrast to jihad bi-il-nafs or moral and 
spiritual jihad, as the greater form — is only legitimate where 
the free practice of Islam is impeded. 

Where jihad of the sword is contemplated there is the 
obligation of the summons, da c wa, which is based on Qur'an 
17:15 and 16:25. The summons is meant to inform those to be 
attacked that Islam does not intend to pursue war for material 
gain such as property but for the purpose of defending or 
strengthening Islam. There are differences of opinion be- 
tween the four principal Sunni schools of law (madhahib) on 
the necessity of da'iva for people who have previously been 
summoned to Islam. The Malikites believe it to be obligatory 
in this case also, the Hanafites recommend it, and the Shafites 
and Hanbalites say it is a matter of indifference. 

Islam has rarely spread, in the sense of converting large 
numbers of non-Muslims of a territory, through jihad of the 
sword. The fundamentalist eighteenth-century reform move- 
ment in Arabia, the Wahhabiyya, as it is called by its oppo- 
nents and by Europeans — the members referred to themselves 
as the Muwahiddun or Unitarians — was essentially a reform 
movement, not a drive to convert non-Muslims. Where and 
when jihad of the sword has been used its effect has usually 
been to establish a Muslim as the ruler of a territory, an 
outcome that was by no means always followed by large-scale 
attempts to convert the local population. A partial explana- 
tion for this can be found in Islamic political theory according 
to which the imposition of Muslim rule over a territory is 
sufficient to make that territory part of dar al-islam (the 
abode of Islam). The principal carriers of Islam have been 
holy men, jurists, traders, and, in the case of the spread of 
Islam to the Western world in modern times, economic 
migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers 

In the time of the prophet Muhammad, conversion by 
conquest and political submission was basically limited to two 
societies, the Bedouins of Arabia and the Berbers of the 

Maghrib. After the prophet Muhammad's death in 632 c.e. 
the military conquest of the Fertile Crescent and Egypt was 
swift but did not account for the conversion of most of the 
population of these regions. This was to come about through 
a process of acculturation as the local people moved from the 
rural areas to the garrison towns (amsar) such as Qayrawan 
(Maghrib), Kufa (Iraq), and Basra (Iraq), as traders, crafts- 
men, laborers, and domestics who over time adopted the 
Arabic language and Islam. 

Trade, Commerce, Suf ism/Mysticism, and Conversion 

The image non-Muslims in many parts of the world have had 
and continue to have of Islam is that of a progressive, modern 
religion offering literacy, a widely spoken language, numeracy, 
and the opportunity to participate in a wider commercial, 
political, and trading network. Islam often spread very slowly 
and even laboriously, its own progress greatly affected by the 
changing local economic, political, and religious situation in 
which it found itself. Islam's development in the Malay- 
Indonesian archipelago is a case in point. Archaeology tells us 
that by the late eleventh century there was a Muslim presence 
in Indonesia, and it would not be surprising given the com- 
mercial attraction of the archipelago and its role as a natural 
staging post between the Middle East and India on one side 
and China, where there has been a Muslim presence in the 
South from the ninth century, if Islam did not in fact arrive 
even earlier. According to Marco Polo who visited North 
Sumatra in 1292 the kingdom of Ferlak (Perlak) in present- 
day Aceh was already Muslim. If the process of expansion was 
slow it was also peaceful. Only in the fourteenth century did 
Islam spread to Northeast Malaya and Brunei, to the court of 
east Java, and to the southern Philippines. And it was to take 
another two hundred years before it found its way in to other 
parts of the archipelago when Sufism or mysticism (fasawvmf), 
in institutionalized and noninstitutionalized forms, came to 
play a pivotal role in the widespread dissemination of Islam 
among the people of Java and elsewhere. According to tradi- 
tion Islam was brought to Java by nine saints or walis, and 
over a long period of four hundred years more gradually 
penetrated the society at all levels, never, however, displacing 
entirely other religious traditions. 

The importance of Sufism in the conversion of large 
numbers to Islam elsewhere can hardly be exaggerated. The 
conversion of Bengal, like that of Java, is also attributed to 
Sufis. Institutionalized forms of Sufism and principally the 
Sufi tariqas or brotherhoods, among them the Qadiriyya, 
Tijaniyya, and Sanusiyya orders, were crucial to the expan- 
sion of Islam in North Africa and Africa south of the Sahara, 
as were the Mevlevi and Bektashi Sufi brotherhoods in 

The indispensable role performed by traders, scholars, 
and holy men in laying the foundations of Islam is evident 
almost everywhere from the medieval empires of Takrur, 

islam and the Muslim World 



Ghana, Mali, Kanem Bornu, and Songhay, to the Nile Valley, 
the Horn, and the East African coast, and across much of the 
Asian sub-continent, Central Asia, and as far as China. In all 
of these regions Islam first arrived with traders who were 
often clerics or were accompanied by clerics and/ or holy men. 
We know from a variety of sources including the travel 
writings of the fourteenth-century Moroccan Ibn Battuta 
(1304-1368/77 c.e.) that the firstMuslims in ancient Ghana, 
Mali, China, Indonesia, Somalia, and elsewhere lived sepa- 
rately and followed their own way of life, making little or no 
attempt to convert others. In places this period of seclusion 
was followed by one of engagement with the wider society 
that usually resulted in mixing or syncretism, a development 
that gave rise to conservative reaction, sometimes in the form 
of jihad of the sword. 

Exile, Slavery, Economic Migration, and Conversion 

Political exiles, convicts, and slaves have also been important 
vehicles for the dissemination of Islam as in the case of South 
Africa, where such people began to arrive from Southeast 
Asia in the mid-seventeenth century and formed the Cape 
Malay Muslim community. From the mid-nineteenth cen- 
tury Muslims arrived from India to form another distinct 
Islamic community, some coming as British-indentured la- 
bor to work on the sugar plantations, others as merchants and 
traders, and others as hawkers. 

Economic migration has been the main vehicle for the 
spread of Islam to the Western world in modern times. No 
more than an exotic appendage to western European religion 
in the mid-twentieth century, largely through migration, the 
Muslim faith has become increasingly familiar across the 
European Union, and comprises an estimated fifteen million 
members, including relatively large numbers of converts 
from Christianity and other faiths. While there are no reli- 
able statistics, the number of Muslims in North America 
would appear to be over four million and the number of 
mosques to serve them about two thousand. 

The Political, Cultural, and Religious Consequences 
of Conversion 

Thus, in the spread and development of Islam, military 
conquest has never been as important or effective as the 
creation of an Islamic environment, educational system, trad- 
ing networks, and generally the building up of Muslim 
institutions. It was these initiatives that facilitated the devel- 
opment of Islam in Iran over several centuries from a small 
community of mainly Arab Muslims to one that included the 
majority of the population by the early years of the eleventh 
century. Sometimes conversion was an individual affair, some- 
times it was collective in the sense that if the leader of a 
community or ethnic group converted the rest of the people 
would follow. 

This notwithstanding, it is worth noting that the estab- 
lishment of Muslim rule in a territory, whether by conquest 

or by peaceful means, did not necessarily constitute a chal- 
lenge to the existing political order nor was it necessarily the 
prelude to a campaign by the new government to convert all 
of the inhabitants of that territory to Islam. Where jihad of 
the sword has been employed it needs to be remembered that 
the primary objective has not always been expansion but the 
reform of the Muslim community, as in the case of the 
Wahhabiyya movement and as was most likely the case with 
the Sokoto jihad in northern Nigeria in the late eighteenth 
and early nineteenth century. 

Examples abound where Muslim rule led to little or no 
immediate change for the majority of the population under it. 
In Egypt, Coptic Christians were given governmental posts 
until the fourteenth century when pressure from the ulema 
(scholars) forced a change. While the Muslim conquest of 
India eliminated the dominant Hindu political-military class, 
the Chhatri, it confirmed the privileged status of the Brahmins 
who remained the guardians of a cultural vision that was non- 
Muslim. Even at the height of its power the Muslim commu- 
nity consisted of only a quarter of the population of Delhi and 
Agra. And the Muslim conquest of Iran and the surrounding 
regions initially favored the spread of other faiths, among 
them Nestorianism and Manichaeism, rather than Islam. In 
Java the introduction of Islam offered a new dimension to 
existing traditional, Buddhist, and Hindu religious beliefs and 
practices, bringing few significant changes to the political life 
of society. 

Where Muslims conquer non-Muslim territory Muslim 
canon law (shari'a) guarantees to protect the life, liberty, and, 
in a modified way, the property of that section of the local 
population that has not been captured in arms. These people 
are known as ahl-al-dhimma (people of the covenant) or 
simply as dhimmh. All free adults who enjoy dhimmi status 
must pay the above-mentioned^Yzya or poll-tax and pay a tax 
(kharaf) on their real estate, over which they no longer enjoy 
the right of disposal. Strictly speaking, the status of dhimmh is 
open only to "people of scripture" (alh-al-kitab), that is, Jews, 
Christians, and Sabaeans, a category that is interpreted to 
cover Zoroastrians. In practice most Muslim countries will 
tolerate all peoples regardless of whether they are "people of 
scripture" or not. 

Where dhimmi status was granted it carried with it the 
obligation to contribute toward the maintenance of Muslim 
armies, to dress differently from Muslims, and to renounce 
such rights as the right to bear arms and to ride on horseback. 
Legal restrictions were also imposed in relation to testimony 
in law courts, protection under criminal law, and marriage. 
Apart from such restrictions, what in practice happens is that 
a non -Muslim community in a Muslim state virtually governs 
itself under its own responsible leader who acts as its link with 
the Muslim government. And where conversion to or from 
Islam is concerned it is expected that the leadership of the 

1 62 

islam and the Muslim World 


community that has made the conversion will inform its 
counterpart of the event. 


This account of the dynamics of conversion to Islam confines 
itself for the most part to the Muslim world. It is not 
exhaustive nor could it be given the great complexity and 
cultural diversity of that world. Appearance to the contrary 
notwithstanding, it is not intentionally reductionist. If greater 
consideration has been given to what might be termed the 
human, material, observable aspects of the phenomenon of 
conversion, and little has been said of its intellectual, spiri- 
tual, and theological dimensions, this should not be taken to 
mean that these dimensions are not more important elements 
of the process of becoming a Muslim or being Muslim. 

Conversion in Islam is a radical call to reject all that 
associates the human with the divine, and on this foundation 
engages the convert in the task of personal and social trans- 
formation. It is a dynamic and multifaceted process of trans- 
formation that in some cases is gradual and in others abrupt; 
in some cases total, in others partial. 

The path to Islam is more varied than outlined above. As 
students of conversion to Islam are aware individuals and 
whole communities have come to Islam having been first 
influenced by the personal example of a practicing Muslim, or 
through a process of intellectual conversion in which schol- 
arly literature has played an important part, or through 
guidance given in a dream or a vision in which a wall or holy 
person, and even the prophet Muhammad himself, have 
appeared as counselors and guides, through mystical experi- 
ences, as a result of a search for healing, protection, and 
security, and for order and discipline in one's life. Either all or 
a combination of these triggers, and others, have activated the 
interest of individuals and communities in Islam and led to 

See also DaVa; Expansion; Minorities: Dhimmis; 


Clarke, Peter B, ed. New Trends and Developments in The 
World of Islam. London: Luzac Oriental, 1998. 

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, ed. The Muslims of America. New 
York and Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1991. 

Horton, Robin. "African Conversion." Africa 41 (1971): 

Katz, E. Ulrich. "Islam in Indonesia." In Islam. Edited by 
Peter B. Clarke. London: Routledge, 1990. 

Shaban, M. "Conversion to Early Islam." In Conversion to 
Islam. Edited by Nehemia Levtzion. New York: Holmes 
and Maier, 1979. 

Peter B. Clarke 

islam and the Muslim World 


Both the word "crusades" and its Arabic equivalent, al-hurub 
al-salibiyyah, are modern terms. What these words refer to, 
however, can be quite different depending on who is using 
them. The dominant trend in secular academic research on 
the Crusades since the 1970s has been one of expansion of the 
topic in terms of activities and military campaigns included, 
of time span, and of geographic expanse. Despite this 
revisionism, there is little doubt that in the popular parlance 
of nonspecialists, the Crusades refers to the almost two- 
century-long presence (1097-1291 c.e.) of Latin Christians 
from central and western Europe in the Holy Land of the 
eastern Mediterranean coastal strip. Thus, while events after 
1291 — such as the Christian reconquest of Spain, campaigns 
against heretics in or on the borders of Latin Christendom, or 
the European conflicts with the Ottoman Empire — are now 
within the domain of current scholarship on the Crusades 
(particularly in Europe), they do not figure large in the 
discourse of the Crusades ongoing in the contemporary 
population of the Holy Land. 

Overview of the Crusades 

At the Council of Clermont in 1095, Pope Urban II delivered 
a sermon that set in motion the Crusades. Precisely what he 
said is unknown, nor is there agreement as to his motivations 
and goals, but in the aftermath of Clermont, clergy, nobles, 
and commoners mobilized for campaigns to reconquer Jeru- 
salem, which had been in Muslim hands since 638 c.e. While 
what comes next follows the common shorthand of referring 
to major Crusade campaigns by numbers, it should be em- 
phasized that this practice does not take into account the 
steady stream of armed pilgrims flowing into and out of the 
Holy Land nor the numerous smaller military campaigns that 
they undertook. 

The First Crusade (1097-1101) resulted in the establish- 
ment of four Crusader states in lands of the eastern Mediter- 
ranean littoral: the County of Edessa, the Principality of 
Antioch, the County of Tripoli (although the city itself was 
not captured until 1109), and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 
light of the obstacles these first crusaders faced in their long 
journey east — shortages of supplies, uneasy relations with the 
Byzantine Empire, travel across rough and unfamiliar terrain 
inhabited by hostile populations, lack of organization, and 
internal rivalries, to name but a few — this initial success was 
remarkable. Indeed, the First Crusade almost ended at Antioch 
between 1097 and 1098, where the Crusaders first laid siege 
to the Muslims for several trying months, and upon victory 
were subsequently besieged themselves by numerically supe- 
rior forces. 

This Crusader victory is usually linked to the disunited 
opposition they faced. In the late eleventh century c.e., there 

1 63 


was no single powerful Muslim state to oppose the invasion of 
the ifranj (Franks), as the Muslims called the invaders. In 
many cities of the Seljuk confederation, military authorities 
known as atabegs were busy establishing their autonomy, and 
were often preoccupied by rivalries with other local Muslim 
rulers. The Sunni Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad was unable 
to directly influence military affairs. The Shi c ite Fatimid 
caliphate in Cairo, itself engaged in a struggle against the 
Seljuks for control of Jerusalem, did comparatively little to 
counter the Crusader incursion. In the words of the Muslim 
chronicler Ibn al-Athir: "When the Franks — may God curse 
them — extended their control over what they had conquered 
of the lands of Islam, and it turned out well for them that the 
troops and the kings of Islam were preoccupied with fight- 
ing each other, at that time opinions were divided among 
the Muslims, desires differed and wealth was squandered" 
(Hillenbrand, 3 1). Over the next four decades the Crusaders 
entrenched themselves in the landscape of Outremer (liter- 
ally, "across-the-sea"), skirmished with the Muslims, and 
began the construction of numerous castles, made necessary 
by their constant shortage of manpower. 

The first major success of the Muslim counter-Crusade 
was achieved by the Turkish military leader Zangi, the atabeg 
of Mosul and Aleppo. After consolidating his control over 
northern Syria and the Jazira (northwestern Iraq), he launched a 
series of campaigns against the Crusaders, culminating in his 
capture of Edessa in 1144. Zangi's elimination of this Cru- 
sader state gave added impetus to calls in Europe for another 
major Crusade. Forces of the Second Crusade subsequently 
arrived in Syria in 1 147, and after heated discussion between 
the resident Crusaders and the new arrivals, decided to attack 
Damascus, ironically one of the Muslim cities whose ruler up 
to that point had coexisted with the Franks. This campaign 
ended in defeat for the Crusaders on the outskirts of Damas- 
cus in July 1148. 

Zangi's career as a counter-Crusader was cut short by his 
assassination in 1146, but was continued by his son Nur al- 
Din. Nur al-Din expanded the area under his control, occu- 
pying Damascus in 1154, and, utilizing the vocabulary of 
jihad, he launched attacks against the Franks. In response to 
numerous Crusader sorties against Egypt in the 1160s, Nur 
al-Din sent a contingent of his forces to aid the Fatimid state. 
This force was led by the Kurdish general Shirkuh, who had 
in his service his nephew Salah al-Din Yusuf b. Ayyub, 
subsequently known as Saladin to the Crusaders. Upon his 
uncle's death, Saladin took command of this force, and by 
March 1169, took control of Egypt, subsequently bringing 
the Fatimid Caliphate to an end. Following the death of Nur 
al-Din in 1174, Saladin moved against his former overlord's 
heirs and brought Damascus and eventually most of Syria 
(Aleppo submitted in 1183) and the Jazira (Mosul submitted 
in 1186) under his control. He then mounted a major cam- 
paign against the Franks, defeating the bulk of their forces at 

the battle of the Horns of Hattin near Tiberius on 4 July 
1187. Jerusalem fell to him by October of that year, and 
the Crusader holdings were reduced to a few castles and 
coastal cities. 

These victories made Saladin a hero. A contemporary 
poet wrote of him, 

You took possession of Paradises palace by palace, 

When you conquered Syria fortress by fortress. 

Indeed, the religion of Islam has spread its blessings 
over created beings, 

But it is you who have glorified it. (Hillenbrand 
1999, p. 179) 

The defeat of the Latin forces also sparked the Third 
Crusade (1189-1192), in which three European monarchs 
were personally involved: the German emperor Frederick I, 
King Philip II of France, and King Richard I (the Lionheart) 
of England. Frederick drowned in Anatolia on his way to 
Outremer, and Philip and Richard quarreled from the mo- 
ment of their arrival in the Latin East. Nevertheless, their 
combined forces helped recapture Acre, henceforth the capi- 
tal of the truncated Kingdom of Jerusalem. After Philip's 
return to France, Richard led a series of campaigns against 
Saladin and, by his departure in 1192, had aided in the 
reestablishment of Latin control over most of the coastal 
cities and their immediate hinterlands. 

Saladin's death in 1193 provided a temporary respite to 
the Crusaders, as his successors (collectively known as the 
Ayyubids, from the name of Saladin's father) engaged in 
struggles over preeminence in the lands that had been united 
by Saladin. In these struggles, some Ayyubid princes were not 
adverse to making temporary alliances with the Franks against 
their Ayyubid rivals. The diversion of the Fourth Crusade 
(1204) to Constantinople, which was sacked and subsequently 
occupied, did little to change this situation in Outremer. 
These divisions among the Ayyubids contributed to the 
complex narrative of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1229). Recog- 
nizing the strategic importance of Egypt, this crusade began 
with the Franks besieging and eventually occupying the 
Egyptian port city of Damietta. In the face of intra-Ayyubid 
rivalries, the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt, al-Malik al-Kamil, 
offered to give Jerusalem to the Franks if they would leave 
Egypt, but the Crusaders refused. By 1221, the Crusaders 
were forced out of Egypt. The Fifth Crusade came to an end 
in the bizarre events of 1228-1229, in which the emperor 
Frederick II, excommunicated for his delays in fulfilling his 
crusading vows, successfully negotiated a treaty with al-Malik 
al-Kamil allowing the Christians to take control of certain 

1 64 

islam and the Muslim World 


Sivas . 

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. City 

Crusades 1096-1229. XNR Productions, Inc./Gale 

sites in Jerusalem, yet was bombarded with offal by the 
residents of Acre as he left to return to Europe. The last 
Crusader presence in Jerusalem was eliminated in 1 244, when 
the city was sacked by Kharazmian warriors, themselves 
displaced from their homelands by the Mongol invasions 
from Central Asia. 

The final major crusade to the Latin East was that of King 
Louis IX of France (1248-1254). Louis and his forces suc- 
ceeded in capturing Damietta in 1249, but were subsequently 
defeated atMansura in 1250 by the forces of the late Ayyubid 

ruler of Egypt, al-Malik al-Salih. Upon surrender and pay- 
ment of a large ransom, Louis went to Acre, where he spent 
four years strengthening fortifications before returning 
to France. 

To understand the end of the Crusader presence in 
Outremer, one must return to events of 1249-1250. During 
the course of Louis's Crusade in late 1249, the Ayyubid al- 
Malik al-Salih died. When his son Turanshah arrived from 
Syria in early 1250 to succeed his father, he took steps to limit 
the influence of key groups among his father's supporters. 

islam and the Muslim World 

1 65 


Saladin, an early Muslim hero, conquered Egypt, most of Syria, 
and finally even Jerusalem by 1187. His victories banished the 
Crusaders from most territories; they began another Crusade, 
however, by 1 1 89. © Corbis-Bettmann 

The main target of Turanshah's punitive actions was the 
corps of his father's mamluks, or military slaves. In his 
struggles against his Ayyubid rivals, al-Malik al-Salih had 
built up a sizable regiment of these military slaves, who while 
still youths had been purchased as slaves from regions outside 
the Islamic world and subsequently converted to Islam and 
trained in military techniques. His regiment was known as the 
Bahri mamluks, since their barracks were located on an island 
in the river {bah') Nile. Faced with loss of influence and 
possibly life, these mamluks of al-Malik al-Salih turned against 
Turanshah, and murdered him shortly after the victory of 

After this regicide, the history of the subsequent decade of 
the history of Muslim Egypt and Syria is dominated by a 
complex struggle for power, further complicated by the 
Mongol invasions. The decade ended with the definitive 
establishment of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1260 by Baybars, 
one of those Bahri mamluks. After consolidating Mamluk 
control, Sultan Baybars launched his forces against the Cru- 
saders, capturing Antioch (in 1268) and several major Cru- 
sader castles. After Baybars' death in 1277 there was a brief 
lull, but attacks against the Crusaders resumed later in the 

reign of the Sultan Qalawun, who conquered Tripoli shortly 
before his death in 1289. Upon the capture of Acre in 1291 by 
the forces of Qalawun's son, al-Ashraf Khalil, the few Cru- 
saders left on the coastal strip abandoned their holdings and 
fled, thus bringing Frankish presence in Outremer to an end, 
although no one at the time realized it. In order to discourage 
Crusader attempts to reoccupy the Muslim coastal cities, the 
Mamluks razed their fortifications. 

The Crusades in the Muslim World Today 

A survey of scholarly literature and public discourse in the 
modern Muslim world reveals that the Crusades have great 
relevance and resonance today. They are commonly seen as 
the forerunner of the European colonial efforts of the first 
half of the twentieth century, placed in the context of per- 
ceived centuries of Western antagonism to the Islamic world, 
and often explicitly linked to the establishment of the modern 
state of Israel. (Crusade references appeared, for example, in a 
series of post-1956 Suez crisis Egyptian postage stamps 
celebrating Egypt as "Tomb of the Invader." One stamp 
celebrates Saladin's victory at Hattin; a second shows Louis 
IX in chains after his defeat at Mansura.) It is not uncommon 
to find references to Saladin and his victory at Hattin in 
political speeches or celebrated in books. In 1992, a larger- 
than-life statue of Saladin was unveiled in Damascus. The 
Crusades also figure in some modern Islamist writing, in 
which the failures of current leaders to resist Western 
incursions are compared to the successes of the heroes of the 
counter-Crusades. And while Hillenbrand (and others) have 
pointed out the pitfalls of the anachronistic use of nationalis- 
tic labels in the study of medieval history, the symbols and 
perceived lessons of the Crusades have been incorporated 
into the rhetoric of Arab nationalist movements in particular. 
Thus in the words of one Arab intellectual, the Crusades 
when viewed through Arab eyes are seen as an act of rape 
(Maalouf, 266). 

See also Christianity and Islam; Saladin. 

Hillenbrand, Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. Chi- 
cago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999. 

Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. London: Al 
Saqi Books, 1984. 

Mayer, Hans Eberhard. The Crusades. 2d ed. Translated 
by John Gillingham. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University 
Press, 1986. 

Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A Short History. New 
Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1987. 

Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Atlas of the Crusades. London and 
New York: Facts on File, 1991. 

1 66 

islam and the Muslim World 

Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades. 3 vols. Cam- 
bridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1951-1954. 

Warren C. Schultz 

CUSTOM See 'Ada 

isfam and the Muslim World 


The term dar al-harb, which literally means "the house or 
abode of war," came to signify in classical jurisprudence a 
geopolitical reality; hence, it may also be rendered the "terri- 
tory" of war. 

In the most basic sense the term indicates territory not 
governed by Islam, in contrast to territory under Islamic rule, 
dar al-islam. More precisely, these territories are geopolitical 
units within which Islam is not the established religion, where 
the ruler is not a Muslim, and where there exists no mecha- 
nism by which political or military leaders may seek the 
counsel of Islamic religious specialists. Use of the phrase dar 
al-harb further indicates the threat of war from the Muslim 
community. Muslim jurists differed on the mechanisms by 
which this threat of war could become a reality. For the 
majority, the leader of the Muslims must fulfill the obligation 
of "calling" the people of a non-Islamic territory to Islam. 
Once a people, through its rulers, refused the opportunity 
(1) to establish Islam as the state religion, or (2) to enter into a 
tributary arrangement with the leader of the Muslims, it was 
understood that war could follow. In accord with normative 
traditions, this war should be understood as an aspect of jihad, 
or the struggle to "make God's cause succeed," specifically by 
spreading Islamic government throughout the earth. It is 
important to note that the purpose of the war to expand the 
territory of Islam was not to make converts, but rather to 
establish Islamic government. 

In modern times, the notion of dar al-harb has been 
employed by some Muslims to speak about territories lost to 
the forces of colonialism or, more generally, secularism. In 
this connection, the ruling of the Shah c Abd al- Aziz (d. 1824) 
regarding the status of British India is of great interest. As he 
had it, given British dominance in the subcontinent, India 
should no longer be considered Islamic territory. It was 
rather part of dar al-harb. Mirroring subsequent discussions 
in Islamic political and juridical thought, c Abd al-Aziz's 

followers drew differing conclusions from his ruling, some 
believing that cooperation with the British, particularly in the 
field of education, was a necessary prelude to a renewal of 
Islam and its cultural influence. Others were more inclined 
toward direct action with the goal of British withdrawal. 

See also Dar al-lslam. 

Kelsay, John. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics. 
Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. 

Shaybani, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-. The Islamic Law of 
Nations. Translated by Majid Khadduri. Baltimore, Md.: 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966. 

John Kelsay 


The term dar al-islam, which literally means "the house or 
abode of Islam," came to signify Islamic territory in juridical 
discussions. For the majority, it is thus suggestive of a geopo- 
litical unit, in which Islam is established as the religion of the 
state, in contrast to dar al-harb, territory not governed by 
Islam. The signs of legitimacy by which one could speak of a 
geopolitical unit as dar al-islam would include a ruler or ruling 
class whose self-identity is Islamic, some institutional mecha- 
nisms by which consultation between the political and relig- 
ious elite is possible, and a commitment to engage in political 
and military struggle to extend the borders of the dar al-islam. 

For others, the relationship between dar al-islam. and 
existing political arrangements was not so easily negotiated. 
Thus, in one tradition the proto-Shi'a leader Ja'far al-Sadiq 
(d. 765) is presented as suggesting that the territory of Islam 
exists wherever people are free to practice Islam and to 
engage in calling others to faith — even if the leadership in 
such a place does not acknowledge or establish Islam as the 

1 69 


state religion. Correlatively, a territory in which the ruler or 
ruling class identifies with Islam, but where the (true) inter- 
pretation of Islamic sources is suppressed, is not dar al-islam, 
but something else. 

In the modern period, one of the most vexing questions 
for jurists, and indeed for Muslims generally, has to do with 
the ongoing power of the symbol of dar al-islam. The experi- 
ence of colonialism, the demise of the historic caliphate, and 
the formation of modern states present serious challenges to 
those who would follow classical precedent and utilize this 
symbol. One line of thought, expressed most succinctly by 
Shah <Abd al-'Aziz (d. 1824), held that the influx of British 
power meant that India was no longer dar al-islam. As such, 
the Muslim community was under an obligation to struggle 
and bring about the restoration of Islamic influence. Others, 
by contrast, understood the classical use of the term as 
connected with an outmoded and even non-Islamic emphasis 
on empire. For these, in ways analogous to the thinking of 
Ja'far al-Sadiq, Islam "abides" wherever Muslims practice 
their religion and call others to faith. 

See also Dar al-Harb. 

Kelsay, John. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics. 
Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. 

Shaybani, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-. The Islamic Law of 
Nations. Translated by Majid Khadduri. Baltimore, Md.: 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966. 

John Kelsay 


Since the late nineteenth century, conceptions of da c wa have 
re-emerged as central in the formulation of Islam. Da'wa is 
increasingly associated with socially vital activities, such as 
edification, education, conversion, and charity. However, the 
term also alludes to the Qur'an and the normative Islamic 
history. Due to this combination, da'wa has become a func- 
tional tool in face of the challenges of modernity. Da'wa is 
sometimes equated with Christian ideas of mission and 
evangelization. Muslims themselves are, as a rule, wary of that 
comparison; and indeed, such translations tend to overlook 
the variations and socio-political specificity of da'wa. This 
term has been conceptualized, institutionalized, and applied 
for divergent purposes throughout the course of history. 
Furthermore, Muslim endeavors to convert non-Muslims to 
Islam have often been understood in terms other than da'wa. 
This is true, for instance, of the significant Sufi ventures of 
recruitment, which historically largely appear to have been 
disinterested in da'wa terminology. Thus, da'wa should be 
regarded as but one type of Islamic discourse of mobilization, 
sometimes in conflict with others. 

This entry introduces the range of conceptions of da'wa, 
paying attention to scriptural occurrence, historical develop- 
ment, and, finally, modern understandings and organizations. 

Scriptural Occurrence 

The word da'wa is derived from an Arabic consonant-root, d- 
'-w, with several meanings, such as call, invite, persuade, pray, 
invoke, bless, demand, and achieve. Consequently, the noun 
da'wa has a number of connotations too. In the Qur'an and 
the sunna, da'wa partly has a mundane meaning and refers to, 
for instance, the invitation to a wedding. Sometimes the 
mundane and spiritual meanings are interconnected. In one 
account of the sunna (Bukhari), the invitation to Islam is 
allegorically referred to as an invitation to a banquet. Spelled 
with a long final vowel, the word means lawsuit. 

Theologically, da'wa refers to the call of God to Islam, 
conveyed by the prophets: "God summons to the Abode of 
Peace" (10:25). Like the previous prophets, Muhammad is 
referred to as "God's caller" or "God's invitor," da'i Allah 
(46:31). God's call has to be distinguished from the false 
da'wa of Satan (14:22). Conversely, da'wa refers to the human 
call directed to God in (mental) prayer or invocation. The 
One God answers the da'wa directed to Him, whereas the 
prayers of the unbelievers are futile. The human da'wa is the 
affirmative response to the da'wa of God. It is not to be 
confused with salat, ritual prayer. When referring to human 
prayer or invocation, the Qur'an makes no distinction be- 
tween da'wa and du'a, a related form of the same consonant- 
root. During the course of theological history, however, the 
term du'a evolved into a particular, technical concept, de- 
scribed and regulated in philosophical and devotional works, 
not least in handbooks of prayer. 

Apart from affirming God's call in prayer, however, hu- 
mankind is invited to live in accordance with the will of God: 
"Let there be one nation iummd) of you, calling to the good, 
enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong" (3:104). 
Thus da'wa is intimately interconnected with shari'a, the 
sacred law. As illustrated by verse 3:104, cited above, da'wa 
also has a social dimension in the Qur'an. The community of 
believers, the umma, who have received the invitation, shall 
convey the message to others. A commonly cited verse reads: 
"Call men to the way of the Lord with goodness and fair 
exhortation and have arguments with them in the best man- 
ner" (16:125). This verse, in turn, is commonly connected to 
the equally familiar verse: "Let there be no compulsion in 
religion" (2:256). Finally, there is an eschatological dimen- 
sion of da'wa. At the end of time, the archangel Jibril (Ga- 
briel) will call humans from their graves: "Then when He 
calls you by a single call from the earth, behold you come 
forth at once" (30:25). 

All in all, the Qur'anic conceptualizations of da'wa conjoin 
a number of fundamental principles of Islamic theology. First 
of all, da'wa animates Islamic doctrine into an effective 

1 70 

islam and the Muslim World 


vocation, by interconnecting and urging humans to recog- 
nize the two core principles of the creed, as rendered in the 
shahada: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the 
messenger of God." Acknowledging and responding to God's 
da'wa further means recognizing the sacredness of the umma 
and implementing shari'a. Last but not least, da'wa refers to 
the invitation of humankind to afterlife. It is, thus, hardly 
surprising that da'wa sometimes is presented as interchange- 
able with the concept of Islam itself. 

Historical Development 

After the death of Muhammad (632 c.e.), the leadership of the 
Muslim community became a controversial issue. A group 
called Shi c at 'Ali, later to be known as Shi c a, argued that Ali, 
Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, and his descendants 
were the rightful caliphs, that is, vicegerents of the Prophet. 
'Ali was eventually appointed caliph, and he is included as the 
fourth among the first four caliphs who Sunnites generally 
celebrated as righteous. In 661 he was killed, however, and 
the Umayyad dynasty, based in Damascus, established a 
hereditary rule. During the eighth century, the legitimacy of 
the Umayyads was increasingly put into question. Based in 
Baghdad, the Abbasids were accusing them for claiming 
kingship, mulk, thus vesting human leadership with an attrib- 
ute and power that only God possesses. The lavish customs of 
the Damascus court underscored the anti-Umayyad da'wa. 

In this sense, da'wa came to inherit a religio-political 
dimension, being the call to accept the rightful leadership of a 
certain individual or family. Da'wa in the religio-political 
sense aimed at establishing or restoring the ideal theocratic 
state, based on monotheism. Here da'wa can be understood as 
political propaganda inflated by Qur'anic terminology. In 
spite of variations in the use of the term throughout history, 
this has been a recurring tendency. 

Da'wa thus became mainly an internal Muslim matter. 
However, the external aspect of da'wa, "calling mankind," 
acquired increasing juridical importance in connection with 
the military expansion of Islam. According to the classical 
theory of jihad of the early Muslim conquests, warfare against 
non-Muslims could not be undertaken, nor could the protec- 
tive tax of non-Muslims, jizya, be levied, had not a summons 
to Islam, da'wa, been issued. During the late eighth century 
four madhahib {madhhab), schools of Sunni law (fiqh), devel- 
oped. Here da'wa was formalized into a set of judicial princi- 
ples and rules included in martial law. 

An important example of the application of da'wa in 
history is the case of the Shi'ite Fatimids. Between 969 and 
1171 they ruled a vast empire, with Cairo as the capital. For 
the Fatimids, who belong to the Isma'ili branch of Shi'a, 
da'wa meant the appeal to give allegiance to the seventh 
imam, Muhammad b. Isma'il. Initially, their propaganda was 
directed against followers of the main branch of Shi'a, the 
Imamis or Twelvers. As their power grew, the Fatimid da'wa 

islam and the Muslim World 

turned against the Abbasid Sunnites, challenging their caliphal 

The Fatimids amplified the concept of da'wa in accord- 
ance with Shi'ite doctrines of permanent revelation through 
the imams. The da'wa of the imam was held to complete the 
da'wa of the prophet Muhammad. The Fatimid da'wa dif- 
fered from the Abbasid da'wa in that it did not cease after the 
establishment of the dynasty. Rather, it became increasingly 
organized and extensive. Da'wa was thus institutionalized, 
integrating political claims with theological elaboration, cen- 
tered around several educational institutions, most notably 
the al-Azhar University of Cairo. In areas controlled by the 
Fatimids, their da'wa propaganda was overt, while the mes- 
sage was transmitted more secretly in other regions. 

In a functional perspective, the core of the Fatimid use of 
da'wa was similar to that of the Sunnite Abbasids. The 
amplification of da'wa among these competing groups in- 
volved an understanding of political propaganda and aspira- 
tions based on theological criticism against other rulers. In 
both cases, thus, the core concern was the leadership issue. 
The Qur'anic term da'wa was rendered relevant primarily in 
the context of claims to political power. The Fatimid idea that 
propagation and acceptance of Islam should not be regarded 
as a singular event, but as a continuous process, forebears 
central themes in modern uses of da'wa. 

From the time of the Fatimids to early modern times, that 
is the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there are 
surprisingly few references to the concept of da'wa. Paradoxi- 
cally, da'wa discourses seem to have entered a phase of 
recession despite the significant expansion of Islam that 
occurred in both Asia and Africa. Two of the reasons for this 
recession may be the legal formalism and the development of 
Sufism. While the Abbasid and Fatimid regimes relied on an 
Islamic ambience in which da'wa held a politically central and 
strategic importance, Sufis were able to spread their message 
without such an ambience. Authority was vested in their 
leaders or shaykhs, who were often victims of state-centered 
persecution. Such a model of authority facilitated the trans- 
plantation of Islam to new regions, where mass conversions 
could take place. It is true that, with the exception of the 
earliest period, when Sufis were largely individualistic and 
ascetic, Sufism has frequently been politically important. 
However, the logic of Sufi expansion has usually been essen- 
tially different from state-centered or establishment Islam 
and, as a consequence, not in need of conceptions of da'wa in 
the religio-political sense. 

Since da'wa as early as in the eighth century was a formal 
concept included in martial law, it became part of the Islamic 
jurisprudence, yz^. From the tenth century onward, Sunnite 
leaders held the apparatus oifiqh as finalized. Thus, the gates 
of ijtihad, (new interpretations based on the main sources of 
Islamic law), the Qur'an, and the sunna, were regarded by 
many jurists as closed. Legal matters were henceforth to be 

1 71 


guided by taqlid, imitation of previous rulings. With the rise 
of taq lid-oriented fiqh, the learned scholars, ulema and fuqaha, 
were installed as its lawful, if largely impotent, administra- 
tors. When the quest for authority through personal inter- 
pretation iijtihad) and opinion (fatwa) was rendered impossible 
or at least heavily curtailed, there was little or no need for 
da'wa discourse. In this sense, the authority of institutional 
law appears to have contributed to circumventing the central- 
ity of the concept of da'wa, which was primarily understood in 
terms of the connection between religious legitimacy and 
political power. 

It should be noted, finally, that at least one example of 
da'wa activity since Fatimid times has been recorded by 
scholars, namely a correspondence between the rulers of the 
Ottoman and the Safavid Empires during the early sixteenth 
century. This controversy over religio-political authority 
carries many similarities with the struggle between Abbasids 
and Fatimids. There may well have been others too. Thus, 
one cannot rule out scholarly omission or lack of interest as 
partly responsible for the silence of da'wa after the early 
centuries of Islam. 

Modern Times 

European colonialism and Christian mission brought Mus- 
lims into intense encounters with non-Muslim ideas and 
practices. The processes of modernity (secularization, in- 
dividualism, social reorganization, etc.) increasingly trans- 
formed Muslim societies. Technological, educational, and 
infrastructural changes made a lasting impact, and deeply 
rooted Islamic ideas and ways of life were put into question. 
Facing such challenges, many Muslims felt a need to recon- 
sider or defend Islam, as well as to inform non-Muslims about 
Islamic principles and creeds. In this context, partly novel 
conceptualizations of da'wa claimed a core position in the 
Islamic debates and practices. 

A precursor for the modern use of da'wa was the Ottoman 
sultan c Abd al-Hamid II, who ruled between 1876 and 1909. 
Claiming the title of caliph, he took on the responsibility for 
the umma. He included the concept of da'wa in his "imperial 
ideology" and intended to lead Muslims like the Pope leads 
the Catholics. Hence, this is an example of a modern use of 
da'wa discourse for the sake of religio-political authority. 

Of more lasting impact with regard to the rethinking of 
da'wa was the Salafiyya movement, the leading figures of 
which were Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897), Muhammad 
Ahduh (d. 1905), and Rashid Rida (d. 1935). Inspired par- 
ticularly by Ibn Taymiyya's (d. 1329) early critique of taqlid 
and legal formalism, they called for the reform of Islamic law 
by reopening the gates of ijtihad. The movement also took a 
decisively critical stance to the influence of secular and 
Christian ideas. Both al-Afghani and, later, Rida were con- 
nected to the pan-Islamic movement that aimed at uniting 
Muslim peoples under the Ottoman caliphate. Rida even 

attempted to launch his small organization, Jami'yat al- 
DaVah wal-Irshad, as a cornerstone of pan-Islamism, indi- 
cating the constancy of the political dimension of da'wa 
conceptions. Of more lasting impact, however, were the 
Salafiyya efforts to strengthen Islamic awareness and solidar- 
ity in face of modernity. Thus, da'wa increasingly was under- 
stood in terms of edification and, most prominendy, education, 

The disruptive period of Islamic reformism around the 
turn of the nineteenth century also saw the birth of the 
Ahmadiyya, founded in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam 
Ahmad (d. 1908). Due to its deviant doctrines (such as the 
claims of Ahmad to have received new revelations from God 
and to be, among other things, an incarnation of Krishna), 
most Muslims do not accept Ahmadiyya as a part of Islam. 
Nonetheless, the movement has persisted as a very active 
da'wa organization, concentrating particularly on publication. 

During the twentieth century, the Salafiyya ideal of tarbiya 
made a lasting impact on the understandings of da'wa. As of 
the 1930s, however, the political as well as the educational 
and devotional aspects of da'wa were understood and used in 
partly novel ways. A preceding event of paradigmatic impor- 
tance was the abolition of the caliphate in 1924. Da'wa 
increasingly became an endeavor to reform the individual, 
rather than the public, institutions of society. Thus, society 
was to be Islamized "from below." This vision can be ascribed 
mainly to Hassan al-Banna (d. 1 949) and Abu 1-A c la' Maududi 
(d. 1979), who were both of towering importance for the 
conception of da'wa among later generations of Islamists. 

Founder in 1928 of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan 
al-Muslimin), al-Banna spoke of da'wa as the call to "true 
Islam." With an allegoric reference to hijra, Muhammad's 
emigration from Mecca to Medina, al-Banna urged Muslims 
to abandon the materialism and superficial pleasures of soci- 
ety. By living in accordance with Islamic rules, Muslims will 
restore an "Islamic Order" and, eventually, establish an 
Islamic state. 

Maududi was more favorable to direct political action and 
mobilization. His organizational base, Jama'at-e Island, was 
set up as a regular political party, although it has gained 
significance primarily as an informal network. Maududi agreed 
with al-Banna's da'wa strategy of internal reform from below. 
However, instead of envisioning an Islamic order, he launched 
the popular concept of the "Islamic movement," al-Haraka 
al-lslamiyya. Here da'wa is aimed at creating an Islamic state 
of mind and a matrix of life rather than an institutional order. 

A different methodology of da'wa was suggested by Tablighi 
Jama'at, founded by Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas in 1927. This 
movement of Sufi background turns its back on political 
activity and concentrates on the devotional life. Yet, it em- 
phasizes the centrality of da'wa in terms of a missionary duty. 

1 72 

islam and the Muslim World 


The Sufi background is highlighted by the centrality of the 
form of prayer called dhikr (remembrance). By repeating 
prayers many times each day, an Islamization of daily life is 
envisioned. Ilyas himself distinctly deviated from the charac- 
ter of al-Banna and Maududi and did not stand out as a 
religious scholar, either as a speaker or writer. This he 
compensated by missionary zeal and novel strategies of or- 
ganization and education. In fact, the theological simplicity 
of the Tablighi's da'wa appears as a key to popular success. 
The prerequisites for acting as a Tablighi da'i are based on 
familiarity with basic Islamic doctrines and traditions, the 
practice of salat and dhikr, respect of other Muslims, and 
sincerity in actions. Da'wa is to be performed as voluntary 
preaching of the message in small groups. Instead of, for 
instance, publishing books or arranging publicly visible events 
and campaigns at university campuses, da'wa is performed 
from door to door. The Tablighi communities, not least 
among Muslim minorities around the world, are built on 
close, personal relations and social support. 

Some years after the Second World War, when the large- 
scale process of decolonization started, modern da'wa activi- 
ties increased in an even more rapid speed. Gradually, da'wa 
developed into a key concept for cultural identity and politi- 
cal change. Jamal 'Abd al-Nasser, who ruled Egypt between 
1952 and 1970, built up a da'wa network in the Middle East 
and Africa. He championed the cause of Islamic socialism and 
pan-Arabism, which influenced nationalist leaders in many 
predominantly Muslim countries, such as Algeria, Syria, 
and Iraq. 

Other Muslim leaders challenged the socialist, nationalist, 
and secularist aspects of postcolonial development and took 
recourse to a more classic understanding of da'wa. Most 
notably, Saudi Arabia's King Faysal challenged, and eventu- 
ally took over, Nasser's leading role, by stressing the ideal of a 
transnational, Muslim solidarity based on Islam, not Arabism. 
In 1962, Saudi Arabia founded the Muslim World League, 
Rabitat al-'alam al-Islami, for promoting international da'wa 
efforts. This was one year after the establishment of an 
Islamic university in Medina for the training of da'wa work- 
ers. The activities of the Muslim World League increased in 
the 1970s when several councils, such as the World Council 
of Mosques, were formed. The idea of promoting interna- 
tional Islamic cooperation through the Council of Mosques 
was partly inspired by the previous establishment of the 
World Council of Churches. The Muslim World League 
cooperated with the governments of certain countries, such 
as Egypt, after Nasser had been followed by Anwar Sadat. As 
a result, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth was founded 
in 1972. Due to the the oil boom of the 1970s, enormous oil 
revenues allowed countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to 
lend most substantial support to the Islamic movement that 
worked for the (re)establishment of "true" Islam. Funds were 
used for, among other things, Islamic research projects, 

charities, distribution of Islamic literature, international con- 
ferences, and festivals, not least in Europe. Notably, this 
support predominandy favored Islamist-oriented movements, 
such as the Deobandi-inspired communities of Britain. 

Previously, Muslims had been largely opposed to relief- 
work and social-welfare concerns as part of da'wa endeavors, 
criticizing Christian missions for using such efforts in order 
to make proselytes. Increasingly, however, charity directed 
primarily to Muslims has become an integral part of much 
da'wa work. It may even be argued that the provision of social 
amenities is one of the main aspects of Islamism. 

As a reaction to the Saudi influence on organizations like 
the Muslim World League, new da'wa instruments were 
formed in other countries. In Libya, for instance, Mu'ammar 
al-Qadhdhafi established the Islamic Call Society, Jam'iyat 
al-Da'wah al-Islamiyya, in 1972, concentrating on da'wa 
efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. A decisive blow on Saudi 
Arabian hegemony was the Iranian revolution of 1979. The 
da'wa efforts of the Iranian Islamic Information Organization 
once again highlighted the question of political legitimacy. 
During the war against Iraq in the 1980s, Iran increasingly 
emphasized its Shi'ite foundation, thus loosening the slack on 
Saudi Arabia. The tensions between Saudi Arabia and the 
increasingly independent da'wa organizations have increased 
since the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s, when Saudi 
Arabia supported the military coalition led by the United 
States. Saudi Arabia was heavily criticized by Muslim organi- 
zations all over the world, and some lost the Saudi support of 

In the late twentieth century, new da'wa organizations 
cropped up all over the Muslim world, including in Europe 
and North America. Moreover, many governments set up 
da'wa departments for education and propaganda, particu- 
larly in the universities. In Pakistan, for example, the Univer- 
sity of Islamabad in 1985 created a Da'wah Academy for 
training da'wa workers, producing and distributing literature 
in several languages as well as organizing conferences, special 
courses, and other events. The academy has an extensive 
international network of cooperating da'wa organizations, 
including the Muslim World League. Another important 
da'wa organization, whose primary objective is to propagate 
Islam through missionary activities, is the Islamic Propaga- 
tion Centre International (IPCI), which was started in 1982 
by Ahmed Deedat in Durban. It was preceded by the Islamic 
Propagation Centre, founded in 1957. Particularly signifi- 
cant in Europe and North America, the IPCI has concen- 
trated on polemics against Christianity. The increasing interest 
in social welfare as a part of da'wa work was reflected, for 
instance, in the formation in 1988 by the Muslim World 
League of the World Muslim Committee for Da'wah and 
Relief. Education and health care is on the program of many 
da'wa organizations, like the Indonesian Diwan Dawat al- 
Islam and the West African Ansar al-Islam. 

islam and the Muslim World 


Among Muslim intellectuals, not least in Europe and 
North America, da'wa to a significant degree has been associ- 
ated with interfaith dialogue. Thus, Qur'anic injunctions 
such as "Invite all to the Way of thy Lord" (16: 125) have been 
reinterpreted in an ecumenical sense. Proponents of inter- 
faith dialogue such as Mahmoud Ayoub, Hasan 'Askari, 
Khurshid Ahmad, Mohammad Talbi, Isma'il al-Faruqi, and 
Seyyed Hossein Nasr agree on the need for ijtihad and the 
contextualization of shari'a, and they have excluded proselyt- 
ism from the conceptions of da'wa. 

However, the visions of al-Banna and Maududi are con- 
tinuously present, especially in European and North Ameri- 
can organizations. Two examples are the International Institute 
of Islamic Thought (HIT) in the United States, founded by 
al-Faruqi, and the Islamic Foundation in United Kingdom, 
an offshoot of the Jama c at-e Islami, headed for many years by 
Maududi's disciple, Khurram Murad. The conception of 
da'wa among such organizations combines ecumenical efforts 
with insistence on edification and mobilization among Mus- 
lims, predominantly by book publishing and, increasingly, by 
engagement in the political and educational systems of the 
Western societies. 

See also Conversion; Expansion; Jama c at-e Islami; 
Shari c a. 


Arnold, Thomas W. The Preaching of Islam: A History of the 
Propagation of the Muslim Faith, 3d ed. London: Luzac, 1935. 

Baldick, Julian. Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism. 
London: Tauris, 2000. 

Canard, Marius. "Da'wa." In Vol. 2, Encyclopedia of Islam. 
Leiden: Brill, 1965. 

Eickelman, Dale, and Piscatori, James. Muslim Politics. Prince- 
ton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996. 

Faruqi, Ismail R al-. "On the Nature of Islamic Da'wah." In 
Islam and Other Faiths. Leicester: The Islamic Founda- 
tion, 1998. 

Halm, Heinz. Shi' ism,. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University 
Press, 1991. 

Janson, Torsten. "Da'wa: Islamic Missiology in Discourse 
and History." Swedish Missiological Themes 89, no. 3 
(2001): 355-415. 

Kose, Ali. Conversion to Islam: A Study of Native British Con- 
verts. Padstow: Kegan Paul International, 1996. 

Otayek, Rene, ed. Le radicalisme islamique au sud du Sahara: 
Da'wa, arabisation et critiques de POccident. Paris: 
Karthala, 1993. 

Popovic, Alexandre, and Veinstein, Gilles, eds. Les voies 
dAllah: Les ordres mystiques dans I'islam, des origines a 
aujourd'hui. Paris: Fayard, 1996. 

Poston, Larry. Islamic Da'wah in the West: Muslim Missionary 
Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1992. 

Rahnema, Ali, ed. Pioneers of Islamic Revival. London: Zed 
Books, 1994. 

Schimmel, Annemarie. Sufismus: Fine Einfiihrung in die 
islamische Mystik. Munich: Beck, 2000. 

Sharon, Moshe. Black Banners from the East. Jerusalem: 
Magners, 1983 

Siddiqui, Ataullah. Christian-Muslim Dialogue in the Twentieth 
Century. London: Macmillan, 1997. 

Christer Hedin 
Torsten Janson 
David Westerlund 


The Arabic word dawla is derived from the root D-W-L, 
meaning "to turn, alternate, or come around in a cyclical 
fashion." The Qur'an (59:7), for example, speaks of the 
Prophet's distribution of the spoils of war to those in need, 
"so that it may not [merely] make the circuit (dulatari) among 
the wealthy of you." Another Qur'anic reference (3:140) 
speaks of the cyclical nature of human vicissitudes, so that 
triumph one day is replaced by defeat another day. This sense 
of alternating periods of fortune and misfortune led Arab 
writers to use the word dawla when speaking of dynastic 
succession, particularly in the period after the rise of Abbasid 
power. The Abbasid "turn" in power had come, just as earlier 
the Umayyads had had their turn before being overthrown. 

As the Abbasid house became entrenched in power, how- 
ever, the dynastic sense of dawla became conflated with 
notions of the empire or state that this family ruled. Pre- 
modern Muslim writers, like their Western contemporaries, 
did not generally speak in the abstract of the state apart from 
those who actually wielded power at any given time. For 
example, Ibn Khaldun's use of dawla signifies, as Franz 
Rosenthal notes, that "a state exists only insofar as it is held 
together and ruled by individuals and the group which they 
constitute, that is, the dynasty. When the dynasty disappears, 
the state, being identical with it, also comes to an end." (Ibn 
Khaldun, Muqaddimah). 

With the advent of Turkish and Kurdish governors under 
the nominal authority of the later Abbasid caliphs, titles 
composed of the word a